Rich list honours China’s minted green

A new class of billionaire is emerging in China – the Green Tycoon. With fortunes made in solar panels, batteries and recycled paper, this exclusive club of environmental entrepreneurs now dominates the rich list.

China’s rapid shift from all-out growth to sustainable development is revolutionizing the structure of wealth – the country has spent upwards of US$350bn on environmental protection, renewable energy and low-carbon alternatives since its first “green” five year plan began in 2006, and for young entrepreneurs such as Suntech’s Shi Zhengrong and LDK Solar’s Peng Xiaofeng, this is just the very beginning.

“The speed of wealth creation in the green sector has been remarkable,” says Rupert Hoogewerf, founder and compiler of China’s definitive “Who’s Who” of the wealthy, The Hurun Rich List. “Private entrepreneurs are beginning to understand the appetite of investors for all things green,” he says.

Such is the force of wealth created by the green economy, Hurun Research has for the first time created a separate category for green tycoons, The Hurun Green Rich List, detailing the 20 richest mainland Chinese individuals who have made their money from sustainable or environmental business (see table below).

Topping Hurun’s 2009 green list with a “green wealth” of US$4.9bn are paper magnates 52-year old Zhang Yin, her husband Liu Mingzhong and her brother Zhang Chengfei, who together own 72.25% of Hong Kong listed Nine Dragons Paper. The company recycles waste paper from the US, Europe and its home market to produce packaging and paper primarily for Chinese exporters.

Nine of the 20 Hurun Green List entrepreneurs made their fortunes in the solar business. GCL-POLY’s Zhu Gongshan leads the solar entrepreneurs with a wealth of US$1.43bn, closely followed by Suntech’s self-made Shi Zhengrong at US$1.1bn.

The Hurun Green List only takes into account wealth created by what Hurun calls the “low-carbon economy”. For example, while BYD’s Wang Chuanfu tops China’s The Hurun 1000 with US$5.1bn, his value on The Hurun Green Rich List is estimated at just US$1bn, as the report subtracts the wealth created by non-green business.

Comment: At the same time, Blue Skies China would hesitate to call Nine Dragons Paper “green” – the company has recently commissioned a new 1GW coal-fired power plant, for example; and price rather than altruism would appear to be the reason behind its use of post-consumer waste rather than virgin pulp. But as Hurun acknowledges, “Although these people operate in low carbon and recycling industries, it is hard to say they do not cause pollution.”

The Hurun Green Rich List

RankWealth US$mNameCompanyIndustryAge

1 4,900 Zhang Yin & family Nine Dragons Paper Recycled paper 52
2 1,430 Zhu Gongshan GCL-POLY Solar na
3 1,100 Shi Zhengrong Suntech Power Solar 46
4 1000 Wang Chuanfu BYD Rechargeable batteries, electric cars 43
5 810 Peng Xiaofeng LDK Solar Solar 34
6 750 Chen Wukui & family Shenzhen Topray Solar Solar 51
7 740 Miao Liansheng Yingli Solar Solar 53
8 660 Dou Zhenggang Jinjiang Group Waste to energy 56
9 650 Lv Xiangyang Guangzhou Youngy Management & Investment Rechargeable batteries, electric cars 47
10 530 Ye Huaneng Baolihua New Energy Stock Hydro Power na
11 440 Chen Guangbiao Huangpu Investment Group Waste recycling 41
12 310 Ren Ping Huiming Group Hydro Power 46
12 310 Song Dianquan Coslight Group Rechargeable batteries 54
14 290 Wen Yibo & Zhang Huiming China Sound Environmental protection technology 44
14 290 Huang Ming Himin Solar Energy Group Solar 51
16 260 Li Xianshou ReneSola Solar 40
16 260 Ni Yunda Jiangsu Shunda Group Solar 47
16 260 Zhang Tianren & Zhang Aogen Tianneng Power International Rechargeable batteries 47
19 250 Jin Baofang Jinglong Group Solar 57
20 220 Yu Naiwen & Yu Naifen Oasis Int’l Investment Environmental protection technology 44, 46
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