Longfor Properties

Divorce costs developer Wu Yajun's crown as China's richest woman

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 3:33am

Wu Yajun, the multibillionaire chairwoman of Hong Kong-listed mainland developer Longfor Properties, has lost her title as the richest woman in China following her divorce.

Her stake in Longfor fell from 75.6 per cent to 45.4 per cent as a result of the split, the company disclosed on Monday. Wu and her husband of 20 years, Cai Kui, who founded Longfor together, filed for divorce on August 6.

Wu's net worth is now estimated at US$4.2 billion, down from the US$7.3 billion estimated earlier by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Wu loses her crown to 31-year-old Yang Huiyan, an executive director of Country Garden Holdings and the daughter of company founder Yang Guoqiang. Yang is now China's richest woman, with a fortune of US$5 billion, the index shows.

A Longfor spokesman said: "That may be good news for our chairwoman. She likes to keep a low profile and has not enjoyed carrying that title."

Just last month, the 48-year-old developer, who started out as a property journalist, topped the Hurun Rich Women List 2012 for China with an estimated wealth of 38 billion yuan (HK$47 billion).

She was followed by Fu Wah International's 71-year-old chairwoman Chan Lai-wa and Yang Huiyan in third place.

The reason for Wu and Cai's divorce has not been specified. It came shortly after Wang Shi, chairman of rival mainland developer China Vanke, separated from his wife. Mainland media reported that the 61-year-old Wang was in love with an actress in her early 30s.

Wu's interest in Longfor fell to 45.36 per cent, with Cai holding 30.24 per cent, after a change of shareholding in August. Wu's holding further fell to 43.18 per cent and Cai's to 28.79 per cent after the company made a share placement in September, according to the firm.

"We don't expect the change to affect Longfor's daily operations or the chairwoman's control [over the company]," said a Hong Kong-based analyst at Barclays in a research note yesterday.

"However, the possibility of a placement by her former husband of part or all of his stake may cause short-term share price volatility; we expect limited downside unless a deal were of an unusual size," the report said.

Yesterday Longfor shares dipped 4.2 per cent to close at HK$13.70.