Mainland's richest person is 26-year old woman

Updated: 2007-10-09 10:31

The 26-year-old daughter of a rags-to-riches property developer is now Chinese mainland's wealthiest person, with a $16.2 billion fortune, the business magazine Forbes said Monday.

Yang huiyan and her husband at their wedding ceremony. [file photo] 

Ms. Yang Huiyan shot to the top of the China Rich List, who is also Asia's richest woman, after Country Garden Holdings Ltd, the property firm her father founded, floated on the Hong Kong stock exchange in April, creating 5 billionaires at once.

Behind Yang Huiyan is another real estate developer, Hui Wing Mau, with a net worth of $7.3 billion. No 3 is Guo Guangchang, chairman of a manufacturing, retailing and property conglomerate, Fosun Group, with a fortune of $4.85 billion. The rise reflects a sharp rise in Chinese real estate prices over the past year.

Yang's low-profile father, Yeung Kwok Keung who is also know as Yang Guoqiang -- who worked as a farmer and on construction sites in Guangdong Province before making his fortune, according to some local Chinese media -- had transferred his stake in Country Garden Holdings Ltd to his daughter in 2005.

Country Garden chairman Yeung Kwok-keung celebrates during their debut at the Hong Kong Exchanges in Hong Kong April 20, 2007.[Agencies]

Yang is one of the few on the list to have inherited her wealth, in a country where booming economic growth has created fortunes virtually overnight.

China's economy has expanded so fast that the country's 40 wealthiest people are now all dollar billionaires, compared with just 15 last year, Forbes said in a press release.

Family photo of Yang Huiyan. [file photo]

Their combined net worth more than tripled to $120 billion, from last year's $38 billion, Forbes said.

But as the number of the super-rich grows, the governments are stepping up efforts to tackle the gulf between rich and poor as the top leadership is bent on building up a harmonious socialist society in China.

Real estate was among the most lucrative sectors. Eight of the top 10 have big property development interests, according to Forbes.

"Household incomes are rising rapidly, and a growing number of people are moving into cities from rural areas. Those trends are creating great business opportunities for property developers," said Russell Flannery, Forbes senior editor and compiler of the China Rich List.

Country Garden, based in the southern city in Guangdong focuses on building villas, townhouses and large apartments. Yang's father is still chairman and chief executive while she sits on the board as an executive director.

Last year's richest woman, Ms. Zhang Yin, founder of Nine Dragons Paper Co, fell from No 5 to No 11 on this year's Forbes list, although her net worth grew by 125 percent to $3.4 billion.

Forbes compiles its list by looking at stakes in listed and private companies and other assets. It excludes Hong Kong residents like tycoon Li Ka-shing -- estimated by Forbes to have a $22 billion fortune in January.

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