Chinese capital markets have created the country’s richest couple after the public listing of pharmaceutical company Hansoh in Hong Kong pushed the wealth of its founder and her husband above $17bn.
Zhong Huijuan, the controlling shareholder of generic drugmaker Hansoh, which raised $1bn in its public offering on Friday, is married to Sun Piaoyang, the founder of Hengrui Pharma, China’s largest privately owned drug company.
Their combined stakes in the two companies put their wealth above China’s former top richest couple, Robin Li, founder of China’s top search engine Baidu, and his wife Ma Dongmin, who are worth about Rmb61bn ($8.8bn).
The couple’s combined wealth following the IPO would put them in the top 10 of the Chinese rich list Hurun, up from 20th position last year, according to list founder Rupert Hoogewerf.
“I’ve never seen a husband and wife couple with such large independent holdings,” Mr Hoogewerf said. “You would normally expect the husband and wife to work together to build a company of this size. That’s a first for China.”
Ms Zhong is a former chemistry teacher who worked as a manager at Hansoh before taking control of the company in 2001. She became China’s third-richest woman as a result of the Hong Kong listing, behind real estate moguls Yang Huiyan and Wu Yajun.
Shares in Hansoh, which was founded in 1995, rose as much as 31 per cent in early trading on Friday, further boosting the value of Ms Zhong’s 68 per cent stake.
Hansoh’s net income rose 19 per cent to Rmb1.9bn and revenues increased 25 per cent to Rmb7.7bn in the 2018 financial year, according to documents filed with the Hong Kong stock exchange in April.
China is the world’s second-largest pharmaceutical market after the US. Beijing has in recent years pushed to consolidate the fragmented market for off-patent generic drugs, benefiting companies such as Hengrui and Hansoh.
Both companies have focused on drugs to treat China’s huge burden of chronic diseases such as cancer, and invested an increasing proportion of their revenues in developing innovative drugs.
“Hengrui and Hansoh’s strategy was synchronised with China’s ongoing medical reforms,” said Zhao Bing, an analyst at brokerage Huajing Securities. “High-quality, and highly cost-efficient generics are welcomed by the state-run medical insurance fund, which is the largest payer in China’s medical market.”
Both companies are based in Lianyungang, a city of 4m people in eastern China, where Hengrui emerged from a state-run chemical factory. Mr Sun worked there as a technician.
The couple’s wealth would be less than half that of China’s richest man, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who saw his assets rise to $39bn last year, according to Hurun.
Additional reporting by Wang Xueqiao in Shanghai and Daniel Shane in Hong Kong