Heavy equipment tycoon tops China rich list

AP News
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Posted: Sep 07, 2011 3:51 AM
Heavy equipment tycoon tops China rich list

China's construction boom has propelled a maker of pile drivers and other heavy machinery to the top of the country's rich list.

The Hurun Rich List 2010, China's equivalent of the Forbes list, said 55-year-old Liang Wengen, a former weapons plant manager and chairman of Sany Heavy Industry Co., leads the country's fast-growing ranks of super-wealthy.

A surge in Sany's share price doubled his fortune last year, to $11 billion, said Rupert Hoogewerf, who studies China's wealthy and compiled the list.

Consumer goods, Internet and property tycoons dominated the top of the list.

China's fast-growing economy has helped it to shrug off much of the impact of the global financial crisis: of the Hurun list of China's 1,000 richest people, 271 were billionaires in U.S. dollar terms, up from 189 in 2010, he said.

Zong Qinghou, head of the Wahaha beverage empire, dropped to second place with $10.7 billion, while Robin Li Yanhong, chairman of search engine company Baidu Inc. was third, with $8.8 billion. Red Bull energy drinks mogul Yan Bin was fourth, with $7.8 billion.

China has thrown trillions of dollars into new housing, railways and other infrastructure, driving a massive construction boom that has benefited manufacturers of machinery, cement and other building materials.

Sany, based in central China's Hunan province, makes construction, road, excavating, hoisting and port machinery, as well as wind turbines.

Founded in 1989 by Liang and several associates as the Hunan Lianyuan Welding Material Factory, the company listed its shares on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in 2003. The company's share price has risen from a 52-week low of 8.19 yuan ($1.28) to its current 15.59 yuan ($2.44). Liang holds a 58 percent stake in Sany Group.

Wahaha founder Zong, 66, has seen his wealth trimmed slightly by rising costs, which are hitting profit margins of many Chinese companies even as sales climb.

But Baidu, which operates China's dominant search engine, has thrived since its rival Google Inc. closed its China search engine last year after saying it not longer wanted to comply with the communist government's Internet censorship.

Baidu reported a 95 percent jump in net profit in the second quarter of the year on surging traffic growth and strong ad spending.