Nongfu's HK stock debut shoots founder up the China rich ranks


Hong Kong (AFP)

Nongfu Spring founder Zhong Shanshan became China's second richest man in an instant Tuesday after his water bottling company's spectacular debut on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Shares in the company -- which claims to be number one in China's massive bottled water market -- surged 85 percent at the bell after an IPO that was oversubscribed by more than 1,100 times.

It opened at HK$39.80 (US$5.14) -- compared with its introductory price of HK$21.50 -- before finishing its first day of trading at HK$33.10.

The surge pushed the fortune of founder Zhong to more than $51 billion, making him the second-wealthiest person in China after Alibaba's Jack Ma, according to Bloomberg News.

Zhong founded the company in 1996 and now owns 84 percent of it.

His fortune, according to Bloomberg, was boosted in April when Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise Co. -- in which he is the biggest shareholder -- went public in a Shanghai IPO.

Nongfu Spring, based in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, supplies mineral water, while most of its competitors sell purified water.

Its products are ubiquitous across the country, where most people shun tap water for health reasons.

The brand holds about a quarter of the bottled water market in China, according to London-based research firm Mintel.