Alibaba's Jack Ma Overtakes Wang Jianlin As China's Richest Man

Chairman of China’s e-commerce leader Alibaba Group, has surpassed Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin as the country’s richest man, according to estimates by Forbes

Jack Ma.
Jack Ma.

As of Friday, Ma’s fortune was worth $30.9 billion, compared with $30.7 billion for Wang.  Wang’s wealth mainly comes from real estate and the entertainment industry.

Ma’s fortune has gained from a more than one-third rise in Alibaba’s share price so far this year amid growing profits.   Its IPO in New York in 2014 set a record as the world's biggest public stock offering.  After trading for a time below $70 last year, its stock closed at $120.34 in New York on Friday.

Asia’s richest man is currently Li Ka-shing of Hong Kong, with a fortune worth $32.9 billion, according to Forbes.

The No. 1 spot in China's wealth rankings in the past few years has mostly been occupied by Ma or Wang. The China rankings may be poised for another shakeup, however, following a run-up in the stock price of Tencent Holdings, which operates the country’s popular WeChat online messaging platform. Tencent Chairman Ma Huateng’s fortune was worth $29.7 billion on Friday, a figure within $1 billion of Ma and Wang.

Alibaba's stock gains have also benefitted SoftBank Group, which holds a 32% stake in the company, and Yahoo, which owns 15% of its shares.

Russell Flannery

Alibaba Takes First Step To Fulfilling Jack Ma And President Trump's 'One Million U.S. Jobs' Promise

After promising to create one million new jobs in the U.S., Jack Ma is taking a big first step on delivering.

Alibaba Group announced today that it will inaugurate its effort to empower U.S. small businesses, entrepreneurs and farmers to sell to hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers at "Gateway 17," a small business summit that will be held in Detroit, Michigan on June 20-21.

Alibaba CEO Jack Ma will be in attendance and will speak to an expected audience of more than 1,000 companies and individuals and many more via online streaming. The event will also include keynote speeches from leading entrepreneurs, as well as category breakout talks, business solutions sessions and marketplace networking opportunities to help those in attendance gain a better understanding of the Chinese consumer's wants and needs.

The "one million U.S. jobs promise"

Shortly after taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump met with Ma to discuss ways in which Alibaba could help create jobs in America via sales to the booming Chinese consumer market. They agreed that by allowing Americans to make use of Alibaba's Tmall platform, it would bring a million new jobs in the U.S. over the next five years thanks to cross border e-commerce sales to China.

"Gateway 17" is a clear sign that Jack Ma is committed to that goal. Major U.S. (and international) brands and retailers have been successfully selling to Chinese consumers through Alibaba's Tmall and cross border e-commerce platform Tmall Global for years. During the Alibaba Global Shopping Festival last year, sellers from China and around the world sold $18 billion dollars worth of goods in 24 hours, 27% of which was sold by foreign brands and retailers, and the number one country of origin for these sales was the United States.

The Summit will introduce Alibaba and the China Super Consumer opportunity to thousands of smaller companies, farmers and entrepreneurs to Alibaba's B2C (business to consumer) and B2B2C (business to business to consumer) marketplaces and provide the information they need to start selling online to China.

From a letter Ma sent potential sellers:

The Chinese market presents tremendous opportunities for U.S. small businesses and farmers to grow their businesses, and in turn, create more U.S. jobs. China’s middle-class population is projected to exceed 600 million by 2022, or nearly twice the size of the entire U.S. population. Last year, China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest retail market, with spending topping U.S. $4.84 trillion. By next year, China’s online spending will be greater than the rest of the world combined. At Alibaba, we want to help you take advantage of this appetite for consumption through our e-commerce marketplaces.

A focus on the Midwest

Detroit was an inspired choice for the Summit. Alibaba wants to draw in businesses and farmers based in the Midwest, and because Detroit, a former innovation and business powerhouse, is attempting to rebuild and rebrand itself. Alibaba is smart to support the struggling but rebounding city.

The Summit and its follow-up outreach will, in an unanticipated and unlikely way, support President Trump's "Buy American" policy. This can happen in two ways: through sales of American products to Chinese consumers, but also, if companies that have never sold online better understand the domestic and international opportunities for profit through e-commerce start selling domestically, their sales to Americans can increase as well. Additionally, those who sell to China through Alibaba can also take advantage of Alibaba's current and future plans to sell to consumers in Southeast Asia, India and beyond.

Recreating the Taobao village phenomenon?

The company's strategy rests on the reality that the majority of new online consumers will come from developing markets in the East and these consumers want and need products and services from the West--and the United States in particular. Especially in the food and beverage, health and body care, home products and apparel categories.

If all goes according to plan something similar to China's "Taobao" villages phenomenon could develop. Taobao villages and towns are locales in China that have seen job growth, increases in income and quickened development when local farmers and small businesses start selling online.

The full letter, where Ma touts the success of Pacific Northwest cherry growers and a New York-based sneaker company selling to China can be found here.

Michael Zakkour

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