Delivery boy becomes third richest in China, worth £22billion

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Wang Wei Wang Wei

Wang Wei built his courier kingdom with £12K borrowed from his father

The 46-year-old amassed fortune after his company went public last week

He had to deliver goods himself when he first started SF Express in 1993 

Grown from six to 120,000 staff, SF is the largest delivery firm in China

Every trade has its master - in this case its billionaire - no matter how humble it is.

A self-made entrepreneur who once dashed between cities to deliver goods for clients has built an impressive courier empire and is now one of China's richest men.

Wang Wei, the boss of SF Express, has seen his personal worth rocketing to a whopping £22.5 billion (189.9 billion yuan) since his company went public last week.

This means the 46-year-old has become the third richest man in China, after property tycoon Wang Jianlin, worth £25.6 billion, and e-commerce mogul Jack Ma, worth £23.5 billion. 

SF EXPRESS: CHINA'S COURIER KINGDOM 

Wang Wei founded SF Express in Shunde, Guangdong Province, in 1993.

Now one of the world's largest courier companies, SF Express started from six staff.

As of 2016, the company had more than 120,000 employees, 13,000 offices, 150,000 vehicles and airplanes, according to the company's website.

The company established its own airline, SF Airline, in 2009. A total of 38 cargo planes deliver some 1,400 tonnes of packages every day within China and to over 200 countries.

SF Express completed its back-door listing on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange on Friday.

The listing has made SF Express the biggest Chinese courier company by market capitalisation, surpassing its rival ZTO Express which went public in October on the New York Stock Exchange after raising £1.4 billion.

The move has also made Wang Wei, chairman and founder of SF Express, a multi-billionaire.

The share price of SF Express was £5.93 (50.18 yuan) when the market opened at 9:30am on February 24. 

Since then, the company has reached limit-up in five consecutive days. Its share price rose to £8.26 (70 yuan) when the market closed on Wednesday.

As a result, Wang Wei's assets have ballooned to £22.2 billion (188.6 billion yuan).

If SF Express's share price continues to grow at the current rate, Wang is expected to overtake Wang Jianlin and become the richest man in China.

Almost every resident in China has received or sent a SF Express package at one point in the past decade. Wang Wei's 120,000-strong delivery team zip around Chinese cities and towns, delivery anything from a million pound business contract to a bag of chicken feet.

The legend of the mega-rich man started 24 years ago when Wang Wei, a fabric dealer at the time, had trouble mailing his samples from Guangdong to neighbouring Hong Kong for his clients to see.

Two decades ago, the only way for Chinese people to send letters and parcels was to go through the state-owned postal system, which was slow and costly. Same-day courier was a concept unheard of even to the most ambitious businessmen.

Having seen an opportunity in the market, Wang, at the age of 22, reportedly borrowed £11,800 (10,000 yuan) from his father to start a courier company in the city of Shunde.

With six employees, SF Express helped factories in Guangdong mail business products to Hong Kong, which was still a British colony.

Wang was born in Shanghai to a Russian translator father and university teacher mother. He moved to Hong Kong at the age of seven and grew up there.

A low-profile man by nature, Wang rarely gives interviews.

In a 2011 interview with Guangzhou Daily, the man explained his motivation of building SF Express: 'Many Hong Kong people had factories in Guangdong at the time, and they had the demands (for courier service).

'So I thought: 'Why don't I start a courier company myself?' As a result, I founded SF in Shunde with some partners.'

He recalled that he had to deliver parcels himself in the early days of the company. '[We] carried our backpacks and our suitcases travelling between Hong Kong and Guangdong every day.'

By offering cheap and punctual service, SF Express quickly expanded.

By 1997, four years after SF Express's establishment, it had gained a monopoly on the courier market between Guangdong and Hong Kong.

The year 1997 marked the hand-over of Hong Kong from British rulers to Chinese Communist Party. After that, the trade between two sides of the border grew dramatically, which propelled Wang's business to increase by leaps and bounds.

Meanwhile, Wang set up franchise branches throughout China. 

In 2003, Wang decided to speed up SF's delivery time by chartering cargo aeroplanes, something unprecedented to private courier companies in China.

Thanks to China's e-commerce boom since 2005, SF Express benefited from the huge market online shopping had created which saw billions of items needed to be delivered daily.

In 2009, chartered aeroplanes could no longer satisfy Wang's business appetite. He set up his own airline, SF Airlines, to dispatch packages.

To date, 1,400 tonnes of packages are sent by Wang's fleet of 38 Boeing aircraft on a daily basis, including five B767s, 16 B757s and 17 B737.

In explaining his road to wealth, the modest man said there is only one way to build a successful business, that is to be 'daring, creative and responsible'.

Having grown his fortune from £12,000 in debt to a staggering £22 billion, Wang has written an incredible rags-to-riches story - and it all started with his backpacks and suitcases.

 

Mailonline 

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