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Booming shares boost Forbes

SHANGHAI, Nov 5 – The sharp rebound in Chinese stocks has seen the total fortune of the nation\’s ultra-wealthy balloon by 141 billion dollars, Forbes magazine said Thursday as it released its annual China rich list.

The net worth of the country\’s 400 richest people rose to a record 314 billion dollars in the year to November from 173 billion dollars a year ago, Forbes said in a report.

The list consists of a record 79 dollar billionaires, as opposed to just 24 last year, after the Hong Kong and Shanghai bourses soared 56 percent and 69 percent respectively, the magazine said.

"Chinese entrepreneurs went through lots of difficulties last year. Now wealth is coming back," Forbes senior editor Russell Flannery told a news conference.

"The gains in their personal fortunes were a sharp reversal to the losses sustained by billionaires in other parts of the world, (and) reflected the rise of China," he said.

Flannery said the entry level for the list had increased from 200 to 300 million dollars.

BYD car battery tycoon Wang Chuanfu came out on top with a fortune of 5.8 billion dollars — far below the 50 billion dollars Forbes said was amassed by the richest man in the United States, Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Wang also topped the recently released Hurun Rich List for China.

The rankings illustrate how fortunes have recovered from last year when China\’s super-wealthy were hit hard by the global credit crunch and financial crisis.

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There were fewer billionaires in China than in the United States — where the number fell to 391 from 487 last year — but the Asian giant was catching up fast, Flannery said.

"Chinese people have less money than Americans. But the wealth accumulated by successful Chinese businesspeople is on the rise while that of US businesspeople is on the decline, indicating the wealth is migrating," he said.

Last year\’s number one, Liu Yongxing, slipped to second spot despite increasing his fortune to 5.5 billion dollars — up 2.5 billion dollars on 2008.

Liu made his money through privately held agricultural company East Hope and stakes in China Minsheng Bank, Minsheng Insurance and Bright Dairy.

Yang Huiyan, the wealthiest woman on the list, ranked fifth after seeing her fortune increase by 75 percent to 3.9 billion dollars — but she is still well below her 2007 net worth of 16.2 billion dollars.

The 28-year-old\’s fortune was tied up in Guangdong developer Country Gardens, run by her father Yeung Kwok Keung, who transferred shares to her, Forbes said.

The highest ranking newcomer to the list was Liu Zhongtian, in eighth spot, whose aluminium products maker China Zhongwang raised 1.3 billion dollars in an initial public offering in April.

Shanghai, the financial hub of China, was home to more super-rich people than any other city in the country, with 45.

Beijing has 38 ultra-wealthy people and the southern boomtown of Shenzhen has 35.

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"China\’s wealth boom, after last year\’s bust, is still very much tied to its own robust growth," Flannery said in a report on the magazine\’s website.

"But the best may still be yet to come. More than ever, there are new opportunities for Chinese entrepreneurs willing to seize them, and along with those opportunities, still more fortunes to be made."

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