Wang Jianlin Revealed As China’s Richest Person

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Wang Jianlin, owner of China’s biggest commercial land developer, is the nation’s wealthiest person, based on filings that show his interests in non-real estate businesses are more valuable than previously calculated. The chairman of closely held conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, which became the world’s largest movie theater chain after acquiring AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. last year for $2.6 billion, has a net worth of $14.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Bloomberg’s Matthew G. Miller reports. (Source: Bloomberg)

WangWang Jianlin, owner of China’s biggest commercial land developer, is the nation’s wealthiest person, based on regulatory filings that show his non-real estate businesses are more valuable than previously calculated.

The chairman of closely held conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, which became the world’s largest movie theater chain after acquiring AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. last year for $2.6 billion, has a net worth of $14.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is $3.2 billion richer than Zong Qinghou, founder of Hangzhou Wahaha Group, China’s No. 3 beverage maker. Zong is the country’s second-wealthiest person.

“Wanda leads Chinese enterprises in expanding its business globally and catering to consumers’ demand at home with some high-profile acquisitions,” said Kenny Wu, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Ji-Asia Research Ltd. “Wang’s move to diversify from Chinese real estate seems rewarding.”

Wang, whose real estate empire has 148 million square feet under management, plans to increase his property holdings by 68 percent by 2014. He is accelerating acquisitions overseas, including Dalian Wanda’s purchase of Sunseeker International Ltd., a U.K.-based maker of yachts used in the James Bond movies, for $1.6 billion in June. He said he plans to spend more than $1 billion to build a luxury residential complex along the banks of London’s Thames river.

Military Background

The 58-year-old billionaire, who’s known to sing Tibetan and Mongolian folk songs at Wanda annual meetings, is the oldest of five brothers born to a military family in western China’s Sichuan province, near the border with Tibet. His father fought for Mao Zedong’s Red Army during the Long March campaign in the 1930s, and later against the Japanese in World War II.

Wang joined the People’s Liberation Army as a teenager and served for 16 years before he was honorably discharged as an officer. He later took a job at an indebted residential developer affiliated with the Northern port city of Dalian, changed the company’s name to Dalian Wanda and became the general manager in 1992. That same year, Bo Xilai became the acting mayor of Dalian. The former Politburo member was charged with bribery, corruption and abuse of power last month and will be tried in court on Aug. 22.

Rapid Urbanization

Over the next two decades, Wang built 72 shopping centers, called “Wanda Plazas,” anchored by his company’s department stores, office buildings and cinemas.

The timing was fortuitous. City dwellers in the world’s second-largest economy exceeded the number of people living in rural areas for the first time in China’s history in 2011. The urban population has grown at a 3.6 percent compound annual rate since 2002, or 21 million people per year. The mass migration accelerated personal income and consumer demand.

“Chinese consumption, particularly high-end consumption is booming,” Wang told reporters in Beijing in June. He plans to have 110 plazas by 2014.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index values closely held companies by comparing some multiples, such as the enterprise value-to-Ebitda or price-to-earnings multiples of similar public companies. When ownership of closely held assets cannot be verified, they aren’t included in the calculations.

-Bloomberg