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With US$9.8 billion, head of Want Want richest man: Forbes

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Want Want China Chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) is Taiwan's richest person, with a net worth of US$9.8 billion, according to a list of billionaires in the Greater China region released by Forbes yesterday.

Last year, Tsai was ranked 16th in Greater China with a net worth of US$6.2 billion. This year, he replaced Tsai Wan-tsai (蔡萬才), founder of Fubon Financial, to become the richest person on the island.

According to the list, although the Fubon Group founder saw a net worth increase, he was edged down to No. 18 in Greater China.

Hong Kong business magnate Li Ka-shin (李嘉誠), chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited, was ranked the richest person in the region for the 15th consecutive time. Li saw a US$5.5 billion year-on-year increase in his net worth, which amounted to a total of US$31 billion.

Zong Qinghou (宗慶后), chairman of beverage producer Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co., Ltd., replaced Robin Li (李彥宏), founder of Web services company Baidu, to become the richest mainland Chinese person with a net worth US$11.6 billion. Zong is the only mainland Chinese citizen among the list's top 10.

Li's net worth decreased to US$6.9 billion from US$10.2 billion after his stock holdings shrank in terms of share price.

Terry Gou (郭台銘), founder of Hon Hai Precision Industry Company Ltd., saw a year-on-year net worth decrease of US$400 million. Gou is currently ranked third in Taiwan with US$5.1 billion.

The top three spots on the list were all taken by Hong Kong real estate tycoons. Lee Shau-kee (李兆基), majority owner of Henderson Land Development Company Limited, ranked second with US$20.3 billion, while Sun Hung Kai Properties Joint-Chairmen Thomas Kwok (郭炳江) and Raymond Kwok (郭炳聯) placed third with US$20 billion.

Wealth in Greater China Increasingly Centralized

According to the survey, 47 people in Greater China became billionaires this year, representing a 24-percent year-on-year increase. The combined net worth of the region's 245 billionaires was increased by US$162.71 billion, reaching a total of US$718.46 billion — a 29-percent annual increase.

The fact that the latter percentage exceeds the former indicates that wealth is increasingly being centralized in the hands of the few, according to experts.

Fifty percent of those on the list were all represented by mainland Chinese citizens.

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