Home > Technology > Meet Asia’s new richest man: Zhang Shanshan, a Chinese vaccine investor

Meet Asia’s new richest man: Zhang Shanshan, a Chinese vaccine investor


Mukesh Ambani’s two-year reign as Asia’s richest person has come to an end.

Chinese bottled water billionaire and vaccine investor Zhong Shanshan has surpassed the Indian businessman to become the continent’s wealthiest man, Bloomberg reported.

Shanshan’s fortune grew by more than $70 billion in 2020, putting his net worth at an estimated $77.8 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. He’s now the world’s 11th-richest person after Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison. And while Ambani may have lost the top spot in Asia, he’s not far behind: the Reliance Industries chairman is still worth $76.9 billion.

The sources of Shanshan’s wealth are his roles as chairman at two major companies: bottled water maker Nongfu Spring and Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise, which makes vaccines and hepatitis test-kits. Nongfu Spring reported $3.5 billion in revenue in 2019, while Shanshan’s pharmacy enterprise reported revenue of $171 million, per Bloomberg.

In 2020, Shanshan’s net worth skyrocketed as he took both of his companies public. Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise went public on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in April, and Nongfu Spring’s $1.1 billion initial public offering in Hong Kong in September made Shanshan China’s third-richest person overnight. 

The 66-year-old billionaire is known as the “Lone Wolf” because he’s not involved in politics or business groups, per Bloomberg. He rarely makes public appearances or speaks to the media, according to Chinese publication The Paper.

“I am a solitary person, and I don’t care what my colleagues are doing or thinking,” Shanshan once said, according to the Paper.

zhong shansan nongfu spring water bottle

Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Born in 1954 in Hangzhou, Shanshan attended the Open University of China and worked as a newspaper reporter in the 1980s before founding pharmaceutical company Yangshengtang Co., Ltd. In 1996, he founded Nongfu Spring and today directly manages the company’s sales, branding, and human resources as executive chairman, according to his corporate biography. 

While he may now have been edged out of the top spot by Shanshan, Ambani is still the 12th-richest person in the world. In 2020, his fortune grew by more than $18 billion as he secured a $5.7 billion investment from Facebook in his mobile telecom service and a $775 million investment from American private equity firm KKR. Briefly, in August 2020, Ambani was the world’s fourth richest person.

Representatives from Shanshan’s companies and Ambani’s company did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment for this story.

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