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China has a new richest person, with Jack Ma dethroned

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Zhong Shanshan's net worth reached US$58.7 billion on Wednesday, US$2 billion more than Jack Ma's, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index

[SHANGHAI] A bottled-water and vaccine tycoon has become China's wealthiest person in a day also marked by massive losses among the world's tech elite.

Zhong Shanshan's net worth reached US$58.7 billion on Wednesday, US$2 billion more than Jack Ma's, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Mr Zhong is now Asia's second-richest person, behind India's Mukesh Ambani, and is the 17th wealthiest in the world, ahead of Charles Koch and Phil Knight.

Nicknamed "Lone Wolf" for his eschewing of politics and clubby business groups, Mr Zhong's fortune has jumped US$51.9 billion in 2020, more than anyone else in the world except Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos and Tesla's Elon Musk.

Both suffered heavy declines on Wednesday as tech stocks stumbled and Tesla plunged after its "Battery Day" event fell short of expectations. Mr Musk's fortune dropped by almost US$10 billion.

The initial public offering (IPO) of bottled-water company Nongfu Spring - which turned out to be Hong Kong's most popular among retail investors - propelled Mr Zhong to China's top three richest earlier this month. That came after the April listing of vaccine maker Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise pushed his net worth to US$20 billion by early August.

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Mr Zhong now leads a wealth ranking in China that is typically dominated by people who made their fortunes from tech companies.

While Mr Zhong has surpassed Mr Ma as China's wealthiest, the tech tycoon might soon regain the top spot, which he's held for most of the past six years after Alibaba went public in the US.

Ant Group's IPO next month is poised to boost Mr Ma's fortune, with his stake estimated at US$28 billion if the company achieves the US$250 billion valuation people familiar with the matter have said it's targeting.

Wednesday was brutal for US tech stocks, which tumbled the most since earlier this month. The plunge in Mr Musk's wealth was the biggest among the people on the Bloomberg ranking of the world's 500 richest, followed by Mr Bezos, whose net worth dropped by US$7.1 billion.

Mr Musk is now worth US$93.2 billion and Mr Bezos US$178 billion.

Mr Zhong added almost US$4 billion Wednesday, more than anyone else in the index.

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