Li Xiting (Singapore): Fanning his fortune

A naturalized Singaporean, Li Xiting is the richest man in a city-state bursting with the mega-rich. Balancing corporate ambition and altruism, the co-founder of China’s most successful medical devices company, Mindray, is one of greatest rags-to-riches tales in the “Switzerland of Southeast Asia.”

Posted jeudi, novembre 10 2022
Li Xiting (Singapore): Fanning his fortune

In the 1960s, when Li Xiting was growing up in a village in Dangshan, a rural county about halfway between Shanghai and Beijing, his fellow residents couldn’t possibly have imagined that he would one day become one of the wealthiest men in the world.

After excelling at school, Li went on to study low-temperature physics at the University of Science and Technology of China in the nearby city of Hefei, a seat of learning whose motto, “Being both responsible and professional, integrating theory with practice” could well have been the mission statement for Xiting’s subsequent entrepreneurial adventures.

After graduating, he cut his teeth in the medical equipment field at a firm based in Hong-Kong-adjacent Shenzen, a city where he would go on to found Mindray in 1991. No simple manufacturer of rudimentary hospital equipment, Mindray’s goal was to bring advanced healthcare tech to people all over the world, and seven years later the firm debuted on the New York Stock Exchange. After almost two decades as a listed company, in 2016, with the backing of a new consortium, he took his company private.

Medtech matters
The impressive list of medical products Mindray designs and manufactures has only grown in recent years, and this is in no small part due to the needs of the medical industry since the outbreak of the pandemic.

One of latest to catch the eye of the medical community is a series of fluorescent dyes that can be used to enhance hematology analysis. Produced in collaboration with the Dalian University of Technology, these dyes won second prize in the 2020 China National Science and Technology Awards and have now been patented.

Xiting’s fortune increased by 47% in the year following the onset of the pandemic, topping out at $27 billion in May 2021

But the range of products developed by Mindray is not limited to diagnostics. The company also produces top of the line, portable, intensive-care equipment for use in hospitals, such as the BeneVision T series of connected vital-signs monitors. This smart device aggregates medical information from the bedside and transmits it to various information nerve-centers within the hospital.

While monitoring and imaging equipment remain a core area for Mindray, their best-selling product remains the ventilator which, thanks to recent events, has seen Xiting rocket up the rich lists.

Mind the gap
At the height of the pandemic, when demand for ventilators far outstripped supply, Xiting’s phone was ringing off the hook with those in high office asking for his help. The 71-year-old proved to be the man for the moment, instructing his company to rachet-up production of these life-preserving devices. The success with which Mindray was able to do so even freed China’s medical system from dependence on outside aid, something which earned the plaudits of the Communist Party leadership.

The result of this frenetic activity saw shares in Mindray jump 50% during the pandemic and his personal fortune grow month after month, billion upon billion. According to a 2021 Bloomberg study, Xiting’s fortune increased by 47% in the year following the onset of the pandemic, topping out at $27 billion in May 2021, before settling at around $17 billion in 2022, which is still almost double what Xiting’s net worth was in the months leading up to the pandemic.

Other than his professional feats, Xiting is notable for his frequent acts of generosity. In 2010, after an earthquake measuring seven on the Richter Scale hit the Tibetan town of Yushu, killing over 2,500 and injuring many more, Mindray donated $660,000 to the relief effort, with Xiting giving a further 500,000 yuan ($70,000 at today’s rates of exchange) out of his own pocket.

Some years later, he gave $670,000 to his alma mater in Hefei, the largest single private donation ever received by the University of Science and Technology of China, an institute of higher learning that he continues to support up to this day, regularly funding its initiatives and providing the faculty with medical equipment.

He may be the pride of Singapore, but it’s clear Xiting has not forgotten his roots.