'Iron Lady' retires as Baosteel chief

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am

Xie Qihua yields to younger leaders after building the firm into a 142b yuan group

Xie Qihua, known as the 'Iron Lady', has finally stepped down as chairwoman of Baosteel Group, China's No1 steelmaker, according to the official People Daily website.

Her departure came well past the retirement age under guidance from the State Council, the country's cabinet, the website said.

Replacing her as chairman is Xu Lejiang, the 48-year-old Baosteel director and president, who in December 2004 took over from Ms Xie as company president and in May last year as chairman of the group's Shanghai-listed arm, Baoshan Iron & Steel.

Ms Xie, 63, stepped down because of her age. China typically requires executives at state-run companies to retire at 60.

Ai Baojun, president of Baosteel's Shanghai-listed arm, will become the group president in line with the board decision made yesterday, People Daily reported.

Related personnel changes involving Baoshan Iron & Steel would be announced soon after the relevant procedures and regulatory approvals were made, the paper said without providing details.

Ms Xie's resignation would not shock the market, said analysts yesterday, noting that the move was well expected and prepared - the central government had progressively arranged younger management to take up Mr Xie's workload.

Born in Shanghai in June 1943, Ms Xie graduated from the civil engineering faculty of Qinghua University in 1966 and went to work as a technician at Shaanxi Steel before joining Baosteel in 1978, when Deng Xiaoping took over the Communist Party and decided to build a steel plant in Shanghai.

Less than 20 years later, Baosteel had become the world's No6 steelmaker.

Under the stewardship of Ms Xie - as president since 1994, and chairwoman since 2000 - its assets had more than tripled to 142 billion yuan at the end of 2005 from 39 billion yuan in 2000, and net profit had quadrupled to 12.7 billion over the same period,

For the three years to 2005, the group had been among Fortune magazine's list of the world's 500 biggest firms.

Ms Xie, one of a few female chief executives in an industry dominated by men, was rated in 2005 by Forbes magazine as one of two Chinese among the world's top 50 businesswomen.

She will leave her successor the job of reaching her target of making Baosteel one of the top three steelmakers in the world by 2010, and overseeing its overseas listing.