The Next Big Thing

President of Apple and Samsung supplier to become China's richest woman

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 March, 2015, 1:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 October, 2016, 1:04pm

An upcoming IPO in Shenzhen may make Zhou Qunfei, president of Lens Technology Co, the richest woman in China. 

Lens Technology is a major supplier to global device manufacturers from Apple and Samsung to LG and domestic firms. Its main product, touch-screen glass covers, are used in 20.27 per cent of the world's smartphones, and 23.37 per cent of tablets. 

The leading glass-cover maker has counted Apple as its largest client for the three years, providing screens for iPads and iPhones, which became the most popular phone in China in the last quarter of 2014. Apple amounted for more than 47 per cent of Lens Technology's entire revenue last year, at 6.88 billion yuan.

Performance of Lens Technology last year surpassed many of the 400 companies listed on the Shenzhen-based Second Board, with an annual revenue of around 14.5 billion yuan and a profit rate of 11.7 per cent. 

However, analysts warn that the company faces potentially great risks in that it is highly reliant on major clients including Apple, Samsung, LG and Foxconn. If those clients reduce demands, it will suffer accordingly. 

Still, the newly released Apple Watch brings new opportunities for Lens Technology. For years it devleoped key technologies behind the sapphire glass display used in the device. 

Haitong Securities said that Lens Technology's stock price might rise to 47.88 to 61.56 yuan, from an issuing price of 22.99 yuan per share. Zhou is projected to be worth more than 46 billion yuan (US$7.3 billion) when the company goes to IPO. 

Mainland China's current richest woman is 33 year old Yan Huiyan, the largest shareholder in property developer Country Garden Holdings. Yan is worth upwards of 44 billion yuan. 

46 year old Zhou, a permanent Hong Kong resident, is originally from Hunan province in southern China. She built her company from scratch in Shenzhen 12 years ago, later moving to to Changsha, the Hunanese capital. 

Zhou has said that she dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur while working at a glass factory in Shenzhen in her early 20s, launching 11 failed companies before hitting it big with Lens Technology. 

"Twice I had to sell my house in order to pay my employees' salary," she said. 

Lens Technology now employs more than 80,000 people, most young workers in their early 20s. The company received an official visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping in November 2013. 

Zhou's success has made her something of a role model to other female entrepreneurs. She oversees many mainland business organisations, and is an executive member of both the China Natonal Federation of Industry and the Commerce Chamber of Women.