China Has 2nd Most Billionaires After U.S.

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Despite the global financial crisis the number of billionaires in China has risen to 130, ranking the Asian country second after the U.S. which has 359. According to the 2009 Hurun Rich List released on Tuesday by the magazine Hurun Report, the number of people worth more than US$1 billion increased by 29 over the past year to total 130 this year. The list ranks the 1,000 richest individuals in China. A recent Forbes magazine reported that there are 359 billionaires in the U.S., 32 in Russia and 24 in India.

But the true number of Chinese billionaires is likely much higher. "There are some extremely wealthy Chinese who have not been included on our list because we do not know the size of their assets, such as the chairmen of computer maker Lenovo and Hainan Airlines," said Rupert Hoogewerf, who is known as Hurun in Chinese. "We estimate the real number of Chinese billionaires to be more than twice the 130 announced this time."

Hoogewerf, a 37-year-old Luxembourg-born accountant, founded the Hunan Report in 1999 and has been publishing the list of China's richest people each year. But wealthy Chinese tend to shun being included on the list due to potential inquiries from tax authorities and other problems.

The Hurun Report says the number of Chinese people worth at least 1 billion yuan (around $150 million) has grown tenfold over the past five years, from 100 in 2004 to around 1,000 now.

Wang Chuanfu, founder and chairman of battery and carmaker BYD, topped the Hurun Rich List with assets of W5.1 billion. Wang jumped from 102nd place last year after an investment by Warren Buffet drove BYD's share price through the roof.

At second place was Zhang Yin & family, owner of Nine Dragons Paper, valued at $4.9 billion. Following the Zhang family was Xu Rongmao & family, owner of real estate developer Shimao, with $4.7 billion.

Meanwhile, according a report issued by Merrill Lynch on Tuesday, the number of billionaires around the world has fallen by 24 percent since the global financial crisis erupted. In Asia, there was a 35 percent decline in the number of billionaires with Japan seeing a 43 percent drop. / Oct. 15, 2009 10:33 KST