Bottled water billionaire pips Jack Ma to become China's richest


A businessman who spun his wealth from bottled water and vaccines has usurped tech tycoon Jack Ma as China’s richest man, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index showed Thursday (Sep 24).

Nongfu Spring founder Zhong Shanshan’s net worth has hit US$58.7 billion after a massive listing by the bottled water company in Hong Kong earlier this month.

This makes him US$2 billion richer than previous number one, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, the wealth index said.

Zhong’s Nongfu Spring, which claims to be number one in China’s massive bottled water market, is ubiquitous across a country where most people shun tap water for health reasons.

The company raised nearly US$1.1 billion in its initial public offering.

Zhong is also the chairman of Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy, a vaccine manufacturer that listed on the mainland in April.

It is developing a COVID-19 vaccine nasal spray in conjunction with a prominent university.

Zhong, a 66-year-old former reporter from Zhejiang who state media say was also once a construction worker, is often referred to by Chinese media as a “lone wolf” for his rare public appearances and reluctance to be interviewed.

He founded Nongfu in 1996, just as China’s bottled water market began to take off.

Today's Vocabulary

1. reluctance (n)
unwillingness to do something

2. claims (v)
to say that something is true or is a fact, although you cannot prove it and other people might not believe it

3. lone wolf (n) 
person who likes to do things on their own without other people

4. in conjunction with (idiom)
together with

5. ubiquitous (adj)
seeming to be everywhere

6. usurp (v) 
to take
control of a position of power, especially without having the right to

  1. What is the name of the magazine that made the Billionaires Index?

  2. How much is Zhong Shanshan worth?

  3. How much more is Zhong Shanshan than Jack Ma?

  4. When did Zhong Shanshan start his bottled water company?
  1. What do you think of bottled water?

  2. What company would you like to be chairperson of?

  3. Do you prefer tap water or bottled water? Why?

  4. How easy is it to start a company?

  5. What would it be like to be super rich?