Zhang Wenzhong (Wumart) back in the spotlight
He’s a returnee! While another Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, the flamboyant boss of Alibaba, continues his desert crossing, Zhang Wenzhong, founder of the food retailer Wumart, is back in the spotlight.
After five years in prison (for corruption), released in 2013, this 59-year-old billionaire is relaunching his business with the ambition of listing WM Tech Corp., holding company of Wumart (426 stores) and Metro China (97 cash-and-carry stores), on the Hong Kong stock exchange. With its financial partners, including Tencent Holdings (owner of WeChat, China’s biggest social network), it also plans to list Dmall Inc, an online services solution for late 2021 in New York. Through his resilience and flexibility, this self-made man – like Jack Ma – illustrates the youth, fragility and extraordinary growth of Chinese retail. When he founded his supermarket chain in Beijing in 1994, modern retailing was just starting in China. Foreign brands were conquering the country. In 2015, he bought the D.I.Y. chain B&Q from British Kingfisher and then went into debt to take over the cash-and-carry business from German Metro AG 5 years later at a cost of US$2.1 billion. Since then, Zhang Wenzhong has turned to technological innovation, following in the footsteps of retail tech leaders like Alibaba and Tencent. Its subsidiary Dmall Inc. offers back-office solutions (instant delivery and payment services, chain management from assortment to supply chain) to more than 3,225 traditional retailers in specific areas of Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Yinchuan and Wuhan. For Zhang Wenzhong, his entry in the financial market should result in raising more than US$1 billion.