Fast-growing China cut into the long-time U.S. lead as home to the world’s largest number of billionaires on the 2021 Forbes Billionaires List published in April. Asia’s biggest economy has done the same on a new Forbes ranking of the world’s top 2000 publicly traded companies published today.
China, including Hong Kong, has a record 350 members on the latest Global 2000 list, an increase of 26 from 324 a year ago. The increase was buoyed by the country’s relatively quick economic recovery from the Covid pandemic, a buoyant IPO market, and growing tech businesses. The U.S. continues to have the most companies on the list–590, but it added only two compared with 2020.
State-controlled financial institutions led China’s performance, highlighting the government’s large role in its economy. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China was No. 1 for the ninth consecutive year; No. 4 was another government banker, China Construction Bank (down from No. 2 last year). Ping An Insurance moved up a notch to No. 6 from No. 7 a year ago, and Agricultural Bank of China made the top 10 at No. 9, that its rank fell from No. 5 in 2020.
Internet and e-commerce companies controlled by many of the country’s richest and best-known billionaire entrepreneurs made big inroads. Alibaba, whose main founder Jack Ma has been largely out of sight after controversial remarks at the end of 2020, moved into the top 25, ranking No. 23 this year versus 31 in 2020. Tencent climbed to No. 29 from No. 50, and JD.com just missed the top 100, ranking No. 101; last year, it was No. 238. Smartphone maker Xiaomi rose to No. 222 from No. 384, and search engine Baidu rose to No. 242 from No. 705. Pinduoduo moved up to No. 864 from No. 1,649.
Most of China’s gainers benefitted from the country’s relatively strong economic growth in the past year. After contracting by 6.8% in the first quarter of last year during the peak impact of the pandemic, China’s GDP was one of the few to expand for all 2020, gaining 2.3% for the full year. It expanded by 18.3% from a year earlier in the first-quarter of 2021, one of its best-ever performances by an economy that now stands as the world’s second-largest. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China was a beneficial of that recovery: it’s first-quarter operating profit rose by 3.8% from a year earlier.
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Government-backed financial services companies accounted for the top two China debuts. The highest-ranking mainland newcomer Lufax Holding, an online finance business backed by Ping An Insurance, which appeared at No. 500 after it went public at the New York Stock Exchange last November. China Bohai Bank was the second-highest debut from the country at No. 693. The next two newcomers were private-second companies: Nongfu Spring, the beverage supplier led by billionaire Zhong Shanshan, debuted at No. 1,065. Kuaishou Technology, the social media platform, came in at 1,125.
Other China gains arose from the pharmaceutical industry. Wuxi Apptec, led by Chinese-American billionaire Li Ge, rose to No. 1,293 from No. 1,746; vaccine maker Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products, whose chairman is billionaire Jiang Rensheng, climbed to 1310 from 1794. Solar businesses did well, too. Tongwei, an animal feed supplier that has diversified into the solar business, at No. 1,243. Nongfu, Kuaishou and Tongwei were among a group of 49 China businesses on the 2021 list that didn’t appear last year.
Two notable Chinese companies that didn’t make the list: Telecommunications hardware maker Huawei doesn’t appear on the Global 2000 because it’s unlisted; ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, didn’t for the same reason.
The Global 2000 list takes into account sales, profits, assets and market value.
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