Guo Guangchang’s parents wanted him to become a village school teacher. He had different ideas, leaving home to study at provincial high school. His ambition paid off, as he won a place at Fudan University in Shanghai to study philosophy.
Seems a driven guy…
Definitely. In 1987 he rode his bike along the Grand Canal to visit Beijing. The following year he organised an event in which students cycled 3,000 miles to Hainan Island.
Initially keen to study abroad, Guo changed his mind and in 1989, flushed with entreprenurial spirit, Guo and three other Fudan graduates scratched together $4,000 to set up a consulting company in genetic engineering called Guangxin Technology.
In 1993 the company was renamed Fosun and made its first Rmb100 million developing a diagnostic drug for Hepatitis B.
Then Guo diversified (“we have diversification in our genes,” he once told TIME magazine), growing Fosun by trading in land and property. A favourite tactic was to buy stakes in run-down state-owned firms, as well as branch out through an extensive use of share swaps.
Fosun is now compared with…
Hutchison Whampoa. Like Li Ka-shing’s famous Hong Kong conglomerate, Fosun has a reputation for its deal-making skills. Guo also likes to draw comparisons with GE, in terms of Fosun’s ability to build successful companies across a range of business sectors.
Fosun now has interests in pharmaceuticals (through Fosun Pharma and Sinopharm), property (Forte), steel (NSU and Jianlong), as well as various other businesses in mining, the media, retailing and the financial services sector. It claims to be the largest private sector company in China and made profits of Rmb1.31 billion in the first half of the year.
Need to know
Fosun International – the parent company – is actually incorporated in Hong Kong, in spite of its Shanghai origins. On listing in 2007 it counted Li Ka-shing, Lee Shau Kee (Henderson Land) and the Kwoks of Sun Hung Kai – Hong Kong’s three richest families – among a significant group of cornerstone investors. Guo’s Fudan colleagues are still around too, “sharing the foes and woes, and fruits”, according to company literature.
As Fosun’s chairman, Guo is reckoned to be worth at least Rmb16.5 billion. Not many philosophy students end up quite so well off.
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