Yang Huiyan: Asia’s richest woman loses half her $24bn fortune in just one year

Yang Huiyan, the richest woman in Asia, has lost more than half her wealth because of the worsening property market crisis in China that has pushed big developers into debt.

Majority stakeholder in China’s largest developer Country Garden, Ms Yang’s net worth plummeted by more than 52 per cent to $11.3bn (£9.3bn) from $23.7bn in just a year, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Her dip in wealth highlights the ongoing crisis in the country’s property sector, with concerns that the mortgage crisis will eventually damage its financial system and funding channels.

The crisis began in 2020 when Chinese authorities launched a crackdown on excessive debt in the sector, pushing big companies such as Evergrande to the brink of bankruptcy.

Ms Yang inherited her wealth from her father and founder of Country Garden, Yang Guoqiang, when he reportedly transferred his shares to her in 2005. Two years later at the age of 26, she became Asia’s richest woman after the developer’s initial public offering.

Based in the southern city of Guangdong, Country Garden started off with a focus on building villas, townhouses and large apartments when real estate was one of the most lucrative sectors in China.

While Country Garden’s securities initially withstood President Xi Jinping’s “common prosperity” campaign, its shares have now started falling drastically.

The company’s stocks slumped 15 per cent on Wednesday after it spooked investors by announcing that it will sell new shares to raise funds in an effort to improve liquidity and repay debts.

It will issue 870 million new shares, or 3.62 per cent of the enlarged share capital, at HK$3.25 each, the company said in a filing.

“Investors worry that the mortgage boycott will spread to Country Garden as they are seeing the boycott project numbers increasing quickly,” Kenny Ng, a strategist at Everbright Securities International in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg.

“The company still has significant debts and recorded a slower month-on-month growth in June sales even though China resumed work.”

Country Garden is the country’s second most indebted developer after Evergrande Group, with debts of $220bn as of the end of 2021. Evergrande has more than $300bn of liabilities, including $20bn of offshore dollar-denominated bonds.

Beijing is reportedly expected to set up a real estate fund to help developers resolve the crippling debt crisis, aiming for a coffer of up to $44bn. The fund would be initially used to bankroll the purchases of unfinished home projects and complete their construction to rent them under the government’s drive to boost rental housing.

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