In March 2021, nearly every country in the world had more billionaires than they did at the outset of the pandemic in mid-March 2020.  Amongst these new billionaires were 40 people who became new billionaires practically overnight solely from covid.

At the same time that these billionaires were getting richer, hundreds of millions were getting poorer and hundreds of millions more were driven to extreme poverty.

In February 2021, the World Economic Forum reported that according to the International Labour Organisation, 114 million jobs were lost in 2020 and others saw their working hours reduced due to covid restrictions. “The ongoing crisis has disrupted labour markets around the world at an unprecedented scale.”

Since the covid pandemic began, Oxfam reported, vulnerable communities around the world have been sending a clear, urgent and repeated message: “Hunger may kill us before coronavirus.”  Oxfam noted it was the greatest rise in inequality:

More than a year and a half since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, the economic decline caused by lockdowns and closures of borders, businesses, and markets, has pushed tens of millions more people into hunger especially the most disadvantaged. Mass unemployment and severely disrupted food production have led to a 40% surge in global food prices – the highest rise in over a decade. More than 40 million people experienced extreme levels hunger primarily due to economic shocks largely caused by the pandemic. This is a near 70 per cent increase over the previous year.

The pandemic has also laid bare the greatest rise of inequality since records began. The estimated number of people living in extreme poverty is projected to reach 745 million by the end of 2021, an increase of 100 million since the pandemic started.

Meanwhile, the rich continued to get richer.  The wealth of the 10 richest people … increased by $413 billion last year, enough to cover the entire UN humanitarian appeal for 2021 more than 11 times over.

World in the midst of a ‘hunger pandemic’: conflict, coronavirus and climate crisis threaten to push millions into starvation, Oxfam

Meet the 40 New Billionaires Who Got Rich “Fighting” Covid

On 6 April 2021, Forbes published an article ‘Meet The 40 New Billionaires Who Got Rich Fighting Covid-19’ which listed 40 new billionaires who got rich from covid in 2020. The following are extracts from the article

Shortly after the World Health Organisation declared covid-19 a global pandemic on 11 March 2020, markets collapsed and economies around the world plunged into recession.

At the same time, hundreds of billionaires fell from the ranks of Forbes’ World’s Billionaires list.

One year later, things couldn’t be more different: a record 493 new billionaires joined the list. Among those newcomers were at least 40 new entrants who drew their fortunes from companies involved in “fighting” covid.

Some became household names due to the “vaccines” they helped develop. Others got rich by making everything from personal protective equipment and diagnostic tests to antibody treatments and software that helps authorities schedule vaccination campaigns.

Some vaccine companies had been so successful that their rise over the year up to March 2021 had minted several new billionaires from the same company, including four apiece from Moderna and Tianjin-based CanSino Biologics.

Forbes: Meet the New Billionaires Who Got Rich Fighting Covid (2 mins)

Top Ten Covid Billionaires 2021

The Forbes’ article lists the top 40 covid billionaires.  Below we list the first 10 with the information summarised in Forbes‘ profiles. You can read the Forbes article HERE or an archived copy can be found HERE.

Li Jianquan and family 

Li Jianquan chairs Winner Medical which began manufacturing cotton-based medical dressings in 1991 and went public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in September 2020. The company also makes protective face masks and surgical gowns, as well as bandages and gauze products. Winner products are sold at more than 40,000 pharmacies across China and in more than 70 countries.

In 2021, Li’s net worth was US$6.8 billion. In 2022, his worth dropped to US$3.3 billion and dropped further in 2023 to US$2.9 billion.

Stéphane Bancel

Stéphane Bancel is the CEO of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech firm Moderna, known for its covid “vaccine.”  Moderna was founded in 2010 and went public in December 2018; the company develops drugs and vaccines using messenger RNA.  Bancel became CEO of Moderna in 2011 and owns roughly 8% of the company. Moderna’s covid injection received emergency authorisation from the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) in December 2020.  In January 2022, Moderna’s covid injection was granted full FDA approval.

In 2021, Bancel’s net worth was US$4.3 billion. In 2022, his net worth increased to US$4.6 billion and in 2023 it was estimated at US$4.4 billion.

Liu Fangyi

Liu Fangyi is chairman and founder of Shenzhen-listed Intco Medical Technology, a supplier of disposable gloves, wheelchairs and gauze. Liu founded the predecessor to Intco Medical Technology in the eastern Chinese city of Zibo in 2009. Intco went public at the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2017.

In 2021, Liu’s net worth was US$4.2 billion.  In 2022, his net worth decreased to US$2.6 billion and in 2023 it reduced further to US$1.4 billion.

Uğur Şahin

Uğur Şahin is CEO and co-founder of German biotechnology firm BioNTech, which partnered with Pfizer to produce the Pfizer-BioNTech covid injection.  Şahin and his wife Özlem Türeci co-founded BioNTech in 2008, backed by German billionaire brothers Thomas and Andreas Struengmann.  Şahin led BioNTech to start on a vaccine for the coronavirus in early 2020; it partnered with Pfizer in March 2020 and got approval in December.  Şahin owns about 17% of BioNTech, which went public on the Nasdaq in October 2019.

In 2021, Şahin’s net worth was US$4 billion.  In 2022, his net worth increased to US$5.3 billion and in 2023 it was estimated at US$5 billion.

Yuan Liping

Yuan Liping received a 24% stake in Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products in 2020 after she divorced Du Weimin, Kantai’s chairman.Yuan has been deputy general manager of Kangtai subsidiary Beijing Minhai Biotechnology since March 2017.

In 2021, Yuan’s net worth was US$3.6 billion.  In 2022, her net worth decreased to US$2 billion and in 2023 it reduced further to US$1.4 billion.

Hu Kun

Hu Kun chairs Shenzhen-listed Contec Medical Systems, a supplier of medical instruments.  Contec went public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in August 2020.  More than 70% of Contec’s revenue comes from overseas.

In 2021, Hu’s net worth was US$2.5 billion.  In 2022, his net worth decreased to US$1.2 billion.  Forbes does not show an estimate of his worth in 2023 as he dropped off the billionaires list.

Chen Xiao Ying

Chen Xiao Ying’s fortune comes from an investment in Alibaba Health Information Technology, the online healthcare business of Alibaba Group.

Forbes does not show Chen’s net worth.  He dropped off the billionaires list in 2022.

Dai Lizhong

Dai Lizhong chairs Sansure Biotech, a supplier of diagnostic kits.  He holds a PhD from Princeton University and did post-doctoral work in biochemistry at MIT.  From 2000 to 2008, Dai worked for US-based Gen-Probe, a maker of diagnostic products.

In 2021, Dai’s net worth was US$2.4 billion.  In 2022, his net worth decreased to US$1.1 billion.  Forbes does not show an estimate of his worth in 2023 as he dropped off the billionaires list.

Karin Sartorius-Herbst

Karin Sartorius-Herbst inherited a stake in the German biopharmaceutical company Sartorius AG, which went public in 1990 and makes pharmaceutical and laboratory equipment. Her father, Horst Sartorius, died in 1998 and left a 50% stake to his daughters Karin, Christine Franken and Ulrike Baro.  An executor oversees their inheritance until 2028.

In 2021, Sartorius-Herbst’s net worth was US$2.4 billion.  In 2022, her net worth was US$2.5 billion and in 2023 it increased to US$3.5 billion.

Ulrike Baro

Ulrike Baro is another of the three daughters of Horst Sartorius, who passed on a 50% stake in the biopharmaceutical company Sartorius AG after his death in 1998.

In 2021, Baro’s net worth was US$1.5 billion.  In 2022, her net worth increased to US$2.5 billion and increased again in 2023 to US$2.7 billion.

The above are new covid billionaires according to the Forbes list as at 5 March 2021.  There are many others who profiteered from covid but they were either not new billionaires or their enrichment was only partly directly from covid profits.  In 2021, Forbes found a record 2,755 billionaires across 70 countries – nearly a third higher than the 2,095 listed in 2020.

Nearly half of the people on Forbes’ World’s Billionaires 2021 list hailed from the US and China. But nearly every other country also gained new billionaires in 2021, with only one – the Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis – recording fewer billionaires than in 2020. Kuwait and Angola saw their only billionaires fall off the list in 2021, leaving them with none.

As at 11 March 2022, Forbes found there were 2,668 billionaires – 87 fewer than a year before. They were worth a collective $12.7 trillion – $400 billion less than in 2021. Forbes noted: “The number of billionaires worldwide fell, but 40% of those who remained got richer.”

As at 10 March 2023, Forbes counted 2,640 billionaires globally, down from the previous year’s 2,668. Altogether, the world’s billionaires are now worth $12.2 trillion, a drop of $500 billion from $12.7 trillion in March 2022. “Nearly half the list is poorer than a year ago,”  Forbes wrote. “Falling stocks, wounded unicorns and rising interest rates translated into a down year for the world’s wealthiest people.”

They’re not poor enough. Their ill-gotten gains should be returned to the people who suffered and continue to suffer while the self-appointed elites have enriched themselves.

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