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  • BBK Duan Yongping: One of China’s Warren Buffetts
  • 12 Feb. 2010

  •          Born in Jiangxi province in 1961, Duan Yongping graduated from the Department of Radio Engineering at Zhejiang University. After graduation, he joined the Beijing Electron Tube Factory, but left to get a master’s degree at Renmin University in econometrics.

             The frustrated industrialist
             In 1988 Duan went south to booming Guangdong and was appointed the manager of a factory owned by the debt-laden state firm Zhongshan Yihua Group. He set up the Subor Electronic Industrial Corporation as one of its subsidiaries, and began making video game machines in 1991. Three years later his firm’s revenues skyrocketed to Rmb1 billion ($146 million), but he remained a salaried employee. He lobbied to get Yihua to make Subor a joint stock company and incentivise him with a major shareholding. In a very public spat, it refused and he resigned.

             Big break
             In 1995 Duan was recruited to head a joint stock company called BBK, which was 19% owned by Taiwanese interests. The company was low profile, but he got what he wanted: a major shareholding. He quickly worked his magic at BBK turning it into a leading local brand making VCD players, cordless phones and other consumer goods items. By 2001 he took a backseat, switching from CEO to board member.

             The investor
             Duan began to use his personal wealth to play the markets. Early on he became a big shareholder in local internet firm, Netease and saw the Nasdaq-listed stock rise more than 50 times. Over the years he has become known as a value investor, who buys when others tremble. For example, he took a $100 million stake in GE during the recent financial crisis. He bought the stock at $6 and more than doubled his money.

             Need to know
             He is (one of the many) to be christened “China’s Warren Buffett”. In his case, he really aspires to the title. In 2006 he famously bid $620,100 to have lunch with the Sage of Omaha. He told the auctioneer to add $100 to whatever the top bid was, with a limit of $650,000. “I am concerned with what Buffett can teach me,” he told reporters. Like his hero, he is also a charitable type, donating $30 million to Zhejiang University and a further $3 million to victims of the Sichuan Earthquake.

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