Bottled water billionaire pips Jack Ma to become China's richest

By: AFP      Published: 07:02 PM, 24 Sep, 2020
Bottled water billionaire pips Jack Ma to become China's richest
Jack Ma and Zhong Shanshan.

A businessman who spun his wealth from bottled water and vaccines has usurped tech tycoon Jack Ma as China's richest man, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index showed Thursday.

Nongfu Spring founder Zhong Shanshan's net worth has hit $58.7 billion after a massive listing by the bottled water company in Hong Kong earlier this month.

This makes him $2 billion richer than previous number one, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, the wealth index said.

Zhong's Nongfu Spring, which claims to be number one in China's massive bottled water market, is ubiquitous across a country where most people shun tap water for health reasons.

The company raised nearly $1.1 billion in its initial public offering. Zhong is also the chairman of Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Co. Ltd., a vaccine manufacturer that listed on the mainland in April.

It is developing a Covid-19 vaccine nasal spray in conjunction with a prominent university. Zhong, a 66-year-old former reporter from Zhejiang who state media say was also once a construction worker, is often referred to by Chinese media as a "lone wolf" for his rare public appearances and reluctance to be interviewed.

He founded Nongfu in 1996, just as China's bottled water market began to take off.