A Group That Luxury Brands And Auction Houses Can’t Ignore
This week, the newest Hurun Rich List finds that China not only has a new wealthiest man, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the country’s business elite to make the top 50. According to Hurun, to make the list of the top 1,000 richest in China, one must now have personal or family wealth of US$310, or double what was required two years ago and triple that required in 2008. Despite concerns over the Chinese property and stock markets, the report finds, the number of US dollar billionaires in the Chinese mainland continues to grow, with 271 on the new list — 82 more than last year, and more than double 2009’s 130.
In trademark bullish fashion, Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman of the Hurun Report, said this week, “China’s rich have defied the global financial crisis with another record year of growth.”
While the top rankings on this year’s list barely budged, China does have a new richest man, Liang Wen’gen of the heavy machinery maker Sany, who now boasts a fortune of US$11 billion and was ranked fourth in 2010. Still, as the FT notes today, Liang’s fortunes on next year’s Rich List “could depend on the fate of the anticipated listing in Hong Kong of his Sany Heavy Industry.” Coming up in second and third on this year’s list were last year’s number one, Zhong Qinghou of Wahaha ($10.7 billion) and Robin Li of Baidu ($8.8 billion).
While this year’s list held few surprises in the top rankings, the key here is the first point made by Hurun, that it’s increasingly difficult to make the list as the number of extremely wealthy Chinese swells. It’s no surprise, then, that everyone from major luxury labels to auction houses — everyone from China’s Poly and China Guardian to Sotheby’s and Christie’s — is courting these ranks of ultra-rich. In the weeks ahead, look for the auction houses in particular to press hard to tap the high rollers called out by the Hurun report, as the fall auction season looms.
If there’s one thing that billionaires like Liu Yiqian have shown, it’s that they have an appetite for art investment, as few are wont to invest solely in domestic or overseas property, gold or the stock market. We’re curious how many people listed on this year’s Rich List are going to join the list of new collectors seen at wine or art auctions in Hong Kong this year as well. As Liu himself said last month, “Over the past five years, there were only a few collectors involved with this market…But this situation has changed this year, as half of the buyers are even new to me.”