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Who is Zhong Shanshan – The lone wolf named Asian’s richest?

January 02, 2021 | 08:56

Asia's new richest person is a Chinese vaccine investor who made USD 70 billion in 2020, surpassing Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani.

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Zhong Shanshan - Private billionaire who’s rarely quoted in the press. (Photo: The Independent)

Zhong Shanshan - Private billionaire who’s rarely quoted in the press

Little known in the outer world, Zhong, whose career spans journalism, mushroom farming, and healthcare, in September rose to become China’s richest businessman after overtaking Chinese philanthropist and businessman Jack Ma by over $2billion, according to Andalou Agency.

Zhong was born in Hangzhou, a city in eastern China, in 1954. He failed his college entrance exams twice in the late 1970s before enrolling at the Open University of China, according to a Chinese media report by The Paper.

Zhong became a reporter in the 1980s. He quit after a five-year stint to set up a bottled water distributor business in Hainan, an island province in southern China. He founded Yangshengtang, a health products brand, in March 1993 and Nongfu Spring, a beverage brand in September 1996, according to Nongfu Spring's 2020 prospectus for an initial public offering. Nongfu started publicly trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange in September 2020. He acquired a majority stake in Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmaceutical Enterprise Co. in 2001. The medical products company began trading publicly on the Shanghai exchange in April 2020.

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The majority of Zhong's fortune is derived from his 84% stake in Nongfu Spring, a bottled water supplier based in Hangzhou, China. (Photo: The Print)

Chinese bottled water billionaire and vaccine investor

The majority of Zhong's fortune is derived from his 84% stake in Nongfu Spring, a bottled water supplier based in Hangzhou, China. The beverage maker became publicly traded in Hong Kong in September 2020. Zhong owns the stake through investment vehicles Hangzhou Youfu and Yangshengtang, according to the company's prospectus for its initial public offering. The valuation of Nongfu Spring was revised on Sept. 8, 2020, when it became publicly traded. This led to an increase in the net worth calculation of $32 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Zhong also has a 75% stake in publicly traded Beijing Wantai Pharmacy Enterprise, a vaccine and hepatitis test-kit maker in China. The Beijing-based company reported revenue of 1.2 billion yuan ($171 million) in 2019, according to its 2020 initial public offering prospectus. Zhong owns the stake directly and through closely held Yangshengtang, according to the prospectus. The value of his cash investments is based on an analysis of historical transactions, stock performance, dividends, and tax.

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Zhong, 66, isn’t involved in politics and his business interests aren’t entwined with other rich families such as the property tycoons, which is why he’s known locally as the “Lone Wolf.” (Photo: Bloomberg)

The title of "Lone Wolf"

Zhong, 66, isn’t involved in politics and his business interests aren’t entwined with other rich families such as the property tycoons, which is why he’s known locally as the “Lone Wolf.” He rarely makes public appearances or speaks to the media, according to Chinese publication The Paper.

In 2020, Shanshan's net worth skyrocketed as he took both of his companies public. Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise went public on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in April, and Nongfu Spring's $1.1 billion initial public offerings in Hong Kong in September made Shanshan China's third-richest person overnight.

"I am a solitary person, and I don't care what my colleagues are doing or thinking," Shanshan once said, according to the Paper.

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