Beijing (AFP)

Their ranks are clearing up for the second year in a row: Chinese multi-billionaires are losing their fortunes with the fight started by Beijing against the over-indebtedness of large companies, according to a study published Thursday.

China remains since 2015 the country in the world with the largest number of billionaires in dollars, ahead of the United States. They are now no less than 62, of which 32 have more than $ 10 billion.

But according to the annual ranking of the Hurun Report media group, fortunes of more than 2 billion yuan (255 million euros) are only 1,819 this year, 3% less than in 2018.

"This is the first time since (the beginning of the ranking 21 years ago) that the list is tightening for the second year in a row," commented the president of the press group specializing in the world of luxury, Rupert Hoogewerf.

Previously, the only years where the ranks of the richest had decreased were 2008, during the financial crisis, and in 2002, after the bursting of the internet bubble.

This year, traditional sectors such as industry and real estate are suffering as overindebted companies are forced to sell assets, reducing the wealth of their shareholders.

"Nearly 40% of those on the list two years ago came out," said Hoogewerf. "This is directly related to the Chinese government's decision to restructure the economy" in the face of financial risks, he said.

- A tumble named Wanda -

Witness of these setbacks, Wang Jianlin, boss of the conglomerate Wanda, who built his fortune on real estate, saw it melt almost half in two years, to 15.5 billion euros.

His highly indebted group had to dispose of numerous holdings he held, particularly abroad in the tourism and leisure sectors. Mr. Wang is ranked 9th among the richest Chinese, while he was at the top of the ranking in 2017.

But the big fortunes of the new economy, such as computers, pharmacy and education, take over.

Jack Ma, the eccentric founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, has retained its first place with 35.5 billion euros in its safe. A substantial fortune for a young retiree: Mr. Ma, 55, has just given the orders of his group last month.

The boss of the Tencent internet group, Pony Ma, is on his heels with a wool stocking of 33.7 billion euros.

Walking in the footsteps of Jack Ma, Colin Huang, boss of another online business group, Pinduoduo, becomes 39 years the first billionaire born in the 1980s to enter the top-10.

His company allows Internet users to make bulk purchases at very low prices.

"Colin Huang has achieved a world first, pocketing 18 billion euros just four years after the founding of Pinduoduo," Hoogewerf said. "Nobody had ever done that starting from scratch".

No less than 11 billionaires born in the 1990s are now in the list of more than 2 billion yuan.

- A fortune of pork -

In spite of the technological war that the United States gives him, the founder of telecom giant Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, sees his fortune grow by 34% to 2.7 billion euros.

According to Hoogewerf, the Sino-US trade war has not yet had an impact on the superriche safes, even though it has already led to an economic slowdown in China.

A Chinese rival of the American Starbucks, Luckin Coffee, pulls anyway the pin of the game: its founder, Jenny Qian, enters the rankings with 738 million euros in his pocket, while his group has introduced last May at Nasdaq.

The misfortune of some is the happiness of others: in the agri-food, the boss of the pigmeat group Muyuan triples his fortune to 12.7 billion euros

Muyuan took the jackpot by selling nearly 6 million pigs as a result of an outbreak of swine fever that decimated the herd of its competitors and blazed prices in China by 50% for a year.

© 2019 AFP