From farm worker to Liaoning’s richest man in four decades ... behind the circuitous rise of Huishan Dairy’s chairman Yang Kai

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 April, 2017, 1:18pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 April, 2017, 1:19pm

Huishan Dairy’s chairman Yang Kai’s road to success proved circuitous, as he spent more than four decades turning himself into the richest person in Liaoning province.

But the more than 20 billion yuan (US$2.9 billion) fortune he amassed evaporated in just less than two hours on March 24, when Huishan Dairy’s H-shares plunged 85 per cent.

China Huishan Dairy shares plunge as much as 91 per cent

Born in 1957, Yang was sent to Kangping county, Shenyang to experience the grinding poverty of the rural poor working on the land, according to the Beijing News.

Four years later, he started at a state-owned flour factory in Shenyang before he was transferred to another state-owned company making food-processing machines in 1984.

By 1992, though, he was a major shareholder with a Chinese business partner, and general manager of the Sino-US joint venture, Shenyang L&D Cereals & Foods.

In 2004, he then bought a 50 per cent stake in Liaoning Huishan Dairy, which was wholly-owned by US investor L&D International.

Liaoning Huishan Dairy, formerly known as Shenyang Dairy, was a state-owned enterprise bought out by L&D in 2002 when the local government carried out a series of reforms to privatise and revitalise the ailing SOEs.

L&D sold its remaining stake in Huishan Dairy to Yang in 2012.

The company, renamed as China Huishan Dairy, went public in Hong Kong the next year propelling Yang, now its chairman and chief executive, to 66th on a China rich list by Hurun Report with personal net worth of 26 billion yuan.

He was listed as the richest individual in the northeastern province of Liaoning.

Known for his nimble skills in asset manoeuvring and fundraising through leverage, Yang announced in 2015 that his dream was to create the most-trusted dairy brand in China.