China's richest, thanks to an IPO and dad

Updated: 2007-04-24 16:48

It sounds like a fairy tale. Yang Huiyan, a 25-year-old woman, has virtually overnight become the richest person in China, with a net worth of about US$9 billion, Forbes reported on Tuesday.

Yang owes her great fortune to the initial public offering of Country Garden Holdings, a real estate developer run by her father that posted sharp gains after debuting on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on April 20.

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Shares of Guangdong-based Country Garden surged 35.1 percent from the issue price of HK$5.38 (69 cents) to HK$7.27 on Friday, following strong demand from institutional and retail investors. The shares slipped modestly to HK$7.17 today.

Having raised US$1.66 billion in the initial public offering in Hong Kong, Country Garden is now the biggest developer in China, with a market value of about US$15 billion.

Yang's wealth puts her far ahead of Zhang Yin, chairwoman of top Chinese paper packager Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) Ltd, as China's richest person.

Zhang topped a list of China's richest people for the first time with a personal fortune of 27 billion yuan according to Huruns' report which appeared in October 2006. And she has a fortune of more than HK$48 billion as she holds 72 percent of the paper company and its share price closed at HK$16.28 today. 

Yang would also have ranked as the world's second-youngest billionaire, behind Prince Albert von Thurn und Taxis of Germany, and she would be the youngest woman on the list, Forbes said.

Country Garden chairman Yang Guoqiang celebrates during their debut at the Hong Kong Exchanges in Hong Kong on Friday, April 20, 2007.[Reuters]
Country Garden was co-founded by Yang's father, Yang Guoqiang. Her enviable financial position has more to do with his accomplishments than hers, Forbes reported.

Yang holds a degree in marketing and logistics from Ohio State University. She joined the family business in 2005. And that year, her father transferred his shares in the business to her, with the intention of grooming his daughter as his successor.

Yang currently is an executive director of the company, overseeing procurement, enterprise resources management and development strategies, according to Country Garden's offering prospectus.

In a statement on April 10, Country Garden said that Yang's ownership interest is not bound by a trust or any other arrangement with her father or other family members, and she has the freedom to manage her assets as she sees fit.

Yang Erzhu, another of the five founders of Country Garden, has also joined the ranks of China's billionaires, thanks to the IPO. He reportedly comes from the same village as Yeung. His 10.2 percent stake is worth about US$1.5 billion.

(For more biz stories, please visit Industry Updates)