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Zhong Shanshan: China's new richest person is bottled water tycoon and vaccine investor

Entrepreneur from Zhejiang province is now world’s 17th wealthiest person 

Rory Sullivan
Thursday 24 September 2020 16:55 BST
Zhong Shanshan, founder of the bottled water company Nongfu Spring, is now China's richest person.
Zhong Shanshan, founder of the bottled water company Nongfu Spring, is now China's richest person. (Rex Features)

A bottled water tycoon and vaccine investor has become China’s richest man, after his wealth surpassed that of Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

Zhong Shanshan, who started the water company Nongfu Spring in 1996, is now worth $58.7bn (£46.2bn) and is currently the 17th richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

This puts him slightly ahead of tech entrepreneur Mr Ma, who has an estimated fortune of $56.7bn (£44.6bn).

Mr Zhong, from Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, worked as a construction worker and newspaper reporter before going into business.

The Chinese entrepreneur’s wealth has increased dramatically in recent months, after a pharmaceutical company he has a controlling stake in – Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise – was listed in Shanghai in April.

The company is currently working on a Covid-19 vaccine.

China’s now-richest person also had a second listing this year, when Nongfu Spring, China’s most popular bottled water brand, went public on the Hong Kong stock exchange in September, with its shares leaping by 54 per cent on its first day of trading.

However, Mr Zhong may not be able to retain the top spot for long, as the Ant Group, which is backed by Mr Ma’s Alibaba, is anticipated to have its initial public offering (IPO) from as early as next month.

It is thought that the tech company’s IPO will be one of the largest ever listings.

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