(Yicai Global) July 25 -- WH Group Ltd. [HKG:0288], a global pork industry leader, has broken into the Fortune 2016 Global 500 for the first time, ranking 495th with an annual revenue of USD21.2 billion. This new milestone can be attributed to the ambition and drive of its chairman, 76-year old Mr. Wan Long.
The group owns well-known subsidiaries Henan Shuanghui Investment and Development Co., China's largest meat processing business, and US-based Smithfield Foods Inc., the world's largest pork processor and hog producer.
Shuanghui began as the Luohe Meat Products Processing United Factory established in Henan province in 1958. Mr. Wan was appointed director in 1984. It was not until 1992 that the company began to make a name for itself as a sausage producer. In 1994 the firm changed its name to Shanghui.
Mr. Wan was determined to lead Shuanghui into the cold fresh meat market after its success with sausage production. He promoted the use of advanced production equipment to guarantee product quality. He also made it a point of principle to treat his distributors fairly and in this way establish solid partnerships with them. Even in a time of crisis, when pigs bred with the drug clenbuterol were sold to Shanghui in 2011, many distributors stuck by him.
However it took some time before the company could establish a good name for itself and break up local monopolies of cold fresh meat distribution. Now Shuanghui cold fresh meat chain stores can be found across China and the company is a leader in the domestic meat industry.
Not content with dominating the domestic market, Mr. Wan then set his eyes on the rest of the world. In 2013 he borrowed several million US dollars and acquired Smithfield Foods. The take-over allowed Shuanghui to connect the Chinese and US pork markets and become the world's largest pig breeding enterprise.
It also allowed Mr. Wan to introduce American pork products into China. To be successful, the company needed to change the traditional breakfast habits of the Chinese people, from soymilk and fried bread sticks to a Western breakfast of bread and ham or bacon. Mr. Wan has always been confident that his meat products make up a more nutritious breakfast, and that the trend will be toward greater meat consumption.
Mr. Wan now heads a major transnational corporation with over 100,000 staff in the US, Europe and China. He is a strict but fair boss. He once served in the army and this experience has influenced his form of leadership.
Mr. Liu Jintao, former vice president of Henan Shuanghui Investment & Development Co. [SHE:000895], thinks highly of his ex-boss. He remembers expressing his ideas frankly with Mr. Wan, even arguing with him, but Mr. Wan was always tolerant, Mr. Liu told Yicai Global.
WH Group only accounts for 10 percent of the domestic meat market, meaning there is plenty of scope for growth for Mr. Wan's boundless ambitions.