Sichuan-native Liu Han was not even 30 when he made his first fortune. After working as a manager in an oil supply station in his hometown of Guanghan, he turned his attention to the futures market. In 1994, the steel industry was depressed. But prices in the futures market were much higher than at spot. Liu made a huge bet on the market, which he was then able to sell at a profit of Rmb500 per tonne.
Put to good use
Liu used his Rmb100 million ($15 million) in steel returns to set up Hanlong Group in 1997. The company started investing in a wide range of industries – hydropower, transportation and real estate – and by 2002, its total assets were worth Rmb7.28 billion.
Liu has a knack for seeing future trends. When he entered the hydropower market in 2001, the country was experiencing a power surplus, and there were no private companies making medium or large sized hydropower plants. But Liu thought that rapid economic growth would start to stretch the power grid, prompting him to invest Rmb5.2 billion over five years developing Sichuan’s hydropower sector.
It’s all mine
But it’s in the natural resource space where Hanlong has had the biggest impact. Liu has interests in a number of promising mines, making him a major player in southwestern China’s resource sector. He has a majority stake in Asia’s largest lead and zinc mine, and also invested in a gold mine in 2006, allowing him to benefit from the precious metal’s recent rise.
More recently, Liu’s ventures abroad have been making the headlines. Late last year, he bought a controlling stake in Moly Metals. The $200 million deal was the biggest private investment made by a private Chinese company in Australia, and it put him in charge of the country’s largest molybdenum mine. When Liu bought a 25% stake in a related company, General Moly, for $80 million, he became the owner of China’s largest privately-held resources portfolio.
Liu is also involved in ventures in new fields, such as solar power and uranium. But he’s also stayed in touch with his roots, and is now recognised as a philanthropist, with a focus on Sichuan.
In particular, Chinese netizens were impressed when one of the projects that he had helped to fund – the Liuhan Primary School – survived the 2008 Sichuan earthquake relatively unscathed. Even though the school was close to the quake’s epicentre, it was left unharmed, in contrast to a series of more cheaply built schools nearby which collapsed, killing schoolchildren. The school thus became known online as the “Coolest Hope School in history”.
Liu ranked 377 in the 2010 Hurun Rich List with Rmb3.8 billion. He is a cousin of Liu Canglong (see Who’s Hu, WiC64).
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