How did Asia’s richest woman Yang Huiyan lose half her wealth? With China’s property crisis, the billionaire’s bank account isn’t doing so well – and she’s lost her title to India’s Savitri Jindal
Yang Huiyan, a majority shareholder in Chinese property giant Country Garden, saw her net worth plunge by more than 52 per cent to US$11.3 billion from US$23.7 billion a year ago, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Yang’s fortune took a major hit last month when the Guangdong-based Country Garden’s Hong Kong-listed shares fell 15 per cent after the company announced it would sell new shares to raise cash.
How did she get so rich?
But her billions didn’t come from nowhere. Yang inherited her wealth when her father – Country Garden founder Yang Guoqiang – transferred his shares to her in 2005, according to state media.
Her father is a self-made tycoon. He has reportedly said that he could not afford to pay school fees when he was in his teens, and was forced to go back into farming as a result. He later managed to study with the help of a scholarship grant.
Yang became Asia’s richest woman in 2007 after the developer’s initial public offering in Hong Kong. But she is now barely holding onto that title, with chemical fibres tycoon Fan Hongwei a close runner-up with a net worth of US$11.2 billion as of late July.
Yang also chairs Bright Scholar Education Holdings, which is the largest operator of international and bilingual K-12 schools in China. It was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2007.
What happened to her wealth?
It’s been a tough couple of years for Yang apparently, as the property market remains troubled. Chinese authorities cracked down on excessive debt in the property sector in 2020, leaving major players such as Evergrande and Sunac struggling to make payments. It left them with no choice but to renegotiate with creditors as they teetered on the edge of bankruptcy.
Buyers across the country have been furious at the lagging construction and delayed deliveries of their properties. Some begun withholding mortgage payments for homes sold before completion.
While Country Garden has remained relatively unscathed by industry turmoil, it spooked investors with an announcement last week that it planned to raise more than US$343 million through a share sale, partly to pay debts.
Proceeds from the sale would be used for “refinancing existing offshore indebtedness, general working capital and future development purposes”, Country Garden said in a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange.
So what happens now?
Things aren’t looking good for Yang’s bank account.
China’s banking regulator has urged lenders to support the property sector and meet the “reasonable financing needs” of firms as analysts and policymakers fear financial contagion. The property sector is estimated to account for 18-30 per cent of the country’s GDP and is a key driver of growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
Analysts have warned that the industry is mired in a “vicious cycle” that would further dampen consumer confidence. It follows the release of the Q2 growth figures, which were the worst numbers since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Yang’s title of Asia’s richest woman has since been passed over to India’s Savitri Jindal who owns conglomerate Jindal Group. The 72 year old has a net worth of US$11.3 billion, per Bloomberg.
- The major shareholder at Country Garden has seen her net worth drop this year from US$23 billion to US$11.3 billion – and now there’s a new richest woman of Asia
- Yang’s fortune may not compare to the world’s richest women, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, Julia Koch or Alice Walton, yet she was still Asia’s No 1