Surveillance tycoons lose billions from threat of US sanctions

Escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing are wiping billions from the net worth of China’s richest surveillance tycoons.

The billionaires behind Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co. have watched their combined fortunes sink by more than USD8 billion since March 2018 as shares of both companies sank on speculation of potential U.S. sanctions. The losses deepened yesterday after reports that Donald Trump’s administration is considering blacklisting the surveillance giants, in part because of their alleged role in human rights violations.

Hikvision Vice Chairman Gong Hongjia, whose fortune peaked at $13 billion in November 2017, is now worth about $6 billion after the stock fell as much as 10% yesterday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Dahua Chairman Fu Liquan’s net worth has dropped to $1.9 billion from $4.3 billion in March 2018.

Hikvision and Dahua have been among the biggest beneficiaries of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s unprecedented push to keep tabs on his country’s 1.4 billion people. Both companies have also been accused by human rights groups of facilitating the government’s suppression of Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group, in the western region of Xinjiang.

As tensions between China and the U.S. have escalated in recent months over issues ranging from trade to corporate espionage and human rights, Hikvision and Dahua have seen their share prices drop by more than 40% from record highs.

The U.S. is deliberating whether to add Hikvision, Dahua and several other surveillance firms to a blacklist that bars them from U.S. components or software, people familiar with the matter said. Trump’s administration last week barred Huawei Technologies Co. from American technology.

It’s unclear which other companies may join Huawei on the so-called Entities List, which prohibits the sale of U.S. technology without a special license. MDT/Bloomberg

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