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A social media tycoon is now China's richest man

China's new richest man has chat apps and video games to thank for his massive wealth.Tencent CEO Ma Huateng i...

Posted: Mar 1, 2018 1:46 PM
Updated: Mar 1, 2018 1:46 PM

China's new richest man has chat apps and video games to thank for his massive wealth.

Tencent CEO Ma Huateng is the country's highest-ranked person on the Global Rich List published Wednesday by Shanghai-based wealth research firm Hurun Report.

His estimated fortune more than doubled to $47 billion over the past year.

His wealth has been supercharged by his stake of nearly 9% in Tencent, the Chinese social networking and internet company that he co-founded in 1998. Shares in the company, which is behind the hugely popular WeChat app, have soared more than 100% in the last year.

At $540 billion, Tencent's market value is now bigger than that of Facebook -- the US company to which it's frequently compared.

But Ma is a long way behind Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose wealth is pegged at $79 billion by Hurun, which is best known for its research on China's super rich. Zuckerberg is the world's fourth richest person after Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

Related: Mark Zuckerberg is no longer king of social. Meet 'Pony' Ma

Ma -- who is famously press shy and rarely grants interviews -- sits farther down the list at No. 15. The Chinese tech tycoon is nicknamed "Pony" because of his surname, which translates to "horse" in English.

He worked in the pager business after graduating from southern China's Shenzhen University in 1993 with a degree in computer science.

Ma has dethroned real estate tycoon Hui Ka Yan as China's richest person. Hurun estimates that Hui, who only took the top spot himself in October, has an fortune of $41 billion. Shares in property developer Evergrande -- of which Hui is the chairman and biggest shareholder -- have skyrocketed more than 300% over the past 12 months.

And China's ranks of billionaires are swelling at an incredible rate. The country minted more than 200 over the past year -- about four a week -- according to the Hurun list.

China is now home to more than 800 billionaires -- or almost 50% more than the US, according to Hurun.

Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report, said tech industries were contributing significantly to China's wealth boom.

"You've got a lot of young people starting very dynamic businesses -- and that's where the energy is coming from," he told CNN.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma is the country's fourth richest man, Hurun said. The e-commerce tycoon's wealth has ticked up 10% in the past year to $32 billion.

Related: China's big conglomerates are no longer buying up the world

Real estate billionaire Wang Jianlin, who was China's wealthiest man as recently as two years ago, fell to eighth place. The Dalian Wanda Group chairman's fortune has slipped 10% to $27 billion as Wang has had to unwind a global buying spree.

Hurun's figures covered the year through January 31, meaning they don't capture the gut-wrenching volatility that rocked global stock markets during February.

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