Property Mogul Wang Emerges as China’s Richest Person

Wang Jianlin, owner of China’s biggest commercial land developer, is the nation’s wealthiest person, based on regulatory filings that show his non-real estate businesses are more valuable than previously calculated.

The chairman of closely held conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, which became the world’s largest movie theater chain after acquiring AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. last year for $2.6 billion, has a net worth of $14.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is $3.2 billion richer than Zong Qinghou, founder of Hangzhou Wahaha Group, China’s No. 3 beverage maker. Zong is the country’s second-wealthiest person.

“Wanda leads Chinese enterprises in expanding its business globally and catering to consumers’ demand at home with some high-profile acquisitions,” said Kenny Wu, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Ji-Asia Research Ltd. “Wang’s move to diversify from Chinese real estate seems rewarding.”

Wang, whose real estate empire has 148 million square feet under management, plans to increase his property holdings by 68 percent by 2014. He is accelerating acquisitions overseas, including Dalian Wanda’s purchase of Sunseeker International Ltd., a U.K.-based maker of yachts used in the James Bond movies, for $1.6 billion in June. He said he plans to spend more than $1 billion to build a luxury residential complex along the banks of London’s Thames river.

Military Background

The 58-year-old billionaire, who’s known to sing Tibetan and Mongolian folk songs at Wanda annual meetings, is the oldest of five brothers born to a military family in western China’s Sichuan province, near the border with Tibet. His father fought for Mao Zedong’s Red Army during the Long March campaign in the 1930s, and later against the Japanese in World War II.

Wang joined the People’s Liberation Army as a teenager and served for 16 years before he was honorably discharged as an officer. He later took a job at an indebted residential developer affiliated with the Northern port city of Dalian, changed the company’s name to Dalian Wanda and became the general manager in 1992. That same year, Bo Xilai became the acting mayor of Dalian. The former Politburo member was charged with bribery, corruption and abuse of power last month and will be tried in court on Aug. 22.

Rapid Urbanization

Over the next two decades, Wang built 72 shopping centers, called “Wanda Plazas,” anchored by his company’s department stores, office buildings and cinemas.

The timing was fortuitous. City dwellers in the world’s second-largest economy exceeded the number of people living in rural areas for the first time in China’s history in 2011. The urban population has grown at a 3.6 percent compound annual rate since 2002, or 21 million people per year. The mass migration accelerated personal income and consumer demand.

“Chinese consumption, particularly high-end consumption is booming,” Wang told reporters in Beijing in June. He plans to have 110 plazas by 2014.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index values closely held companies by comparing some multiples, such as the enterprise value-to-Ebitda or price-to-earnings multiples of similar public companies. When ownership of closely held assets cannot be verified, they aren’t included in the calculations.

In Wang’s prior net worth calculation, the Bloomberg ranking valued Dalian Wanda as one company, using multiples of four publicly traded Chinese developers. An analysis of regulatory filings and financial results for the year ended June 30 provided metrics to value the retail and entertainment subsidiaries of Dalian Wanda.

Ownership Stakes

Wang’s family owns 100 percent of Dalian Wanda directly and through holding company Dalian Hexing Investment Co., the documents show. He owns 98 percent of Dalian Hexing and his son, Wang Sicong, owns 2 percent. The billionaire owns 61.6 percent in his flagship, Dalian Wanda Commercial Property Co. directly and through Dalian Wanda Group, according to the filings.

Dalian Wanda had revenue of $26 billion in the 12 months ending June 30. Commercial property contributed 76 percent of Wanda’s revenue in the first half of 2013, compared with 88 percent a year earlier and 91 percent in 2011, according to figures on the company’s website.

Wang’s stake in Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co. is valued at $7.4 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg based on the average price-to-earnings multiple of four peers: China Vanke Co., China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd., Longfor Properties and Evergrande Real Estate Group Ltd.

Higher Valuation

The asset could be valued even higher. Pacific Alliance China Land Ltd., a London-based closed-end fund, assigned a value to its 0.5 percent stake in Wanda Commercial at $71.8 million at the end of 2012, according to its annual report. That would value the entire company at $14.4 billion and Wang’s stake at $8.6 billion. Pacific Alliance, through an outside spokesman, said it didn’t comment on its investments.

Wang’s second-largest asset is his 100 percent stake in the Wanda Department Store Co. chain. The company is valued at $5.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg ranking, based on the average enterprise value-to-sales and enterprise value-to-Ebitda multiples of Intime Retail Group Co. Ltd., Golden Eagle Retail Group Ltd. and Parkson Retail Group Ltd. The company said it plans to have 120 stores by 2015 from 62 now.

The AMC movie chain and Wang’s China theaters comprise the bulk of Wanda’s entertainment subsidiary, which was founded in 2012 and invests in films, live performances, theaters and karaoke bars. He has more than 500 cinemas with 6,000 screens, plus 68 karaoke bars. His stake in that business is worth $1.3 billion, based on the average enterprise value-to-sales and enterprise value-to-Ebitda multiples of TOHO Co., Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and Gaumont SA.

Billionaires Index

Wang’s other businesses include 40 five-star hotels, which he plans to double by 2015.

Dalian Wanda declined to comment on Wang’s net worth, a Beijing-based Dalian Wanda media official said. He asked not to be identified by name citing corporate policy. Zong’s spokesman, Shan Qining at Hangzhou Wahaha, declined to comment.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index takes measure of the world’s wealthiest people based on market and economic changes and Bloomberg News reporting. Each net worth figure is updated every business day at 5:30 p.m. in New York and listed in U.S. dollars at current exchange rates.