Zeng Yuqun, the founder of the world’s biggest electric-vehicle battery maker, has overtaken Jack Ma in the wealth rankings, a symbolic moment in the rise of China’s green billionaires.
Zeng’s net worth has jumped to US$49.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as shares of Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. surged this year. That exceeds Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. co-founder Ma’s wealth of US$48.1 billion and makes Zeng one of the five richest people in Asia for the first time.
It is the latest sign of how a new generation of tycoons in China is amassing vast fortunes in the clean-energy boom. Investors have pushed up stocks such as CATL, a key supplier to Tesla Inc., as the country leads the market for electric-vehicle sales and pursues an ambitious policy of reaching carbon neutrality in 2060.
“The billionaire ranking used to be dominated by real estate tycoons and later tech entrepreneurs, and now we are seeing more from the new energy sector,” said Hao Gao, director of Tsinghua University’s NIFR Global Family Business Research Center. “As the industry leader for electric-vehicle batteries, CATL will benefit most from the carbon emission goal.”
A spokeswoman for CATL declined to comment on Zeng’s net worth. Zeng, 53, who hails from a hillside village in Fujian province in southeast China, built CATL into a battery juggernaut in less than a decade, creating the largest global producer of rechargeable cells for plug-in vehicles.
Global electric-vehicle battery sales more than doubled in the first five months of this year from a year earlier, with CATL accounting for 31.2 percent of the market, the largest share, according to an SNE Research report.
New-energy vehicle retail sales in China grew by 9.8 percent in 2020 to 1.11 million units, according to the China Passenger Car Association.
BloombergNEF expects the company’s global sales growth to continue, benefiting from economies of scale, a cost-competitive upstream supply chain and an established client base.
CATL’s stock has surged more than 20-fold since the company went public in Shenzhen in 2018. It’s up 55 percent this year alone as demand for EVs increases, countries work to reduce carbon emissions and costs tumble. Shares fell by 2.4 percent on Friday.
CATL trades at more than 100 times estimated earnings, compared with about 13 times for competitor Panasonic Corp.