As China goes, so too does Hong Kong these days, usually for the better but not without risks. This is particularly true for the city’s richest businesspeople, who have largely been upping their bets on the mainland, investing billions in buildings, shops and hotels.
Peter Woo’s Wheelock is finishing construction on one of Shanghai’s tallest towers. Gordon Wu's Hopewell Holdings is building highways there. Hang Lung Group, run by Ronnie Chan, gets 40% of its rental income from Shanghai. Tang Yiu’s Belle International is the mainland’s largest retailer of women’s shoes. Over a dozen of Hong Kong's 40 richest have substantial real estate investments there.
The mainland has also bolstered fortunes in Hong Kong and Macau as affluent Chinese tourists spend their money in the city's stores, hotels and casinos. All of this has helped push up the total net worth of Hong Kong's 40 richest to $135 billion, up from $82 billion a year ago but still below its 2008 high of $179 billion.
There are exceptions to the China rule though. The Fung brothers, who run global outsourcing firm Li & Fung, are adding to their wealth by bolstering their business all over the world, particularly in the U.S. In the past year, it became the sole outsourcing agent for Talbots and bought U.S.-based Wear Me Apparel's clothing and accessories operations, whose products are sold at retailers like Macy's. Then last week the firm, which already makes clothing, toys and other items for retailers like Kohl’s and Target, announced a partnership with Wal-Mart Stores, in which it will act as a buying agent for the world's largest retailer.
Li Ka-shing is again the city's richest, gaining $5 billion, though still worth a lot less than his 2008 estimate of $32 billion. Not one list member is poorer. Twenty-four of the returning tycoons added at least 50% to their net worths. Even manufacturers laid low by last year's global recession are doing much better, including the year's biggest percentage gainer, Lee & Man Paper's Patrick Lee.
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