Bottled off: India’s Ambani dethroned as Chinese water tycoon becomes Asia’s richest man

As the year draws to a close, Chinese bottled water billionaire and vaccine investor Zhong Shanshan has become the new richest man in Asia, overtaking the region’s long-tern leader, Indian business magnate Mukesh Ambani.

With a fortune approaching $7 billion back in January, Zhong’s wealth has surged by nearly $71 billion since then, with only Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk making more money this year among the richest people on the planet, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. Thus the Chinese billionaire’s estimated wealth rose to a whopping $77.8 billion, putting him in 11th place on the list, right ahead of Reliance Industries chairman Ambani.

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While Ambani has slipped down to the second spot among Asia’s wealthiest, he is not too far behind. He added over $18 billion to his fortune during the past 12 months, meaning it is now estimated at $76.9 billion.

The 66-year-old Chinese businessman gained prominence earlier this year, when the water company he founded nearly quarter of a century ago, Nongfu Spring, started trading in Hong Kong. The firm raised more than $1.1 billion via its successful IPO, pushing Zhong’s fortune higher and allowing to join the top ranks of China’s wealthiest and eventually take the first place.

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The beverage company is not the only project fueling Zhong’s success. The billionaire also controls Chinese pharmaceutical company Wantai Biological, which went public in Shanghai in April. Stock in the firm, which is developing a nasal spray coronavirus vaccine, surged by over 2,000 percent earlier this year.

Zhong worked in construction, journalism, and founded pharmaceutical company Yangshengtang before turning to bottled water. He has earned the nickname ‘Lone Wolf’, as he rarely makes public appearances or agrees to speak to reporters, and he is neither involved in politics nor linked to business groups, according to Bloomberg.

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