The women billionaires of China: real estate and stock listings create new rich

The two richest people in China are now woman, according the recently released Hurun list of Chinest richest people. Deng Xiao-Ping once said: "To get rich is glorious". If that's true, then there are more and more Chinese basking in glory than ever before. Before we get to the stories of the two woman billionaires, let's run down a list of amazing statistics:

  • The average level of wealth on Hurun's China rich list has doubled over the past year to US$562 million.
  • The cut-off for the China rich list is US$105 million.
  • The China rich list totaled 800 members.
  • Total wealth represented by the China rich list has reached US$457 billion.
  • China has 106 billionaires, up from 15 last year, and is number 2 in the world after the US, which has 415, according to Forbes.

The richest in China benefitted from rising stock prices and a booming real estate market. Out of the top ten richest, nine own listed companies and gained from the sharp rise in China’s stock market. And four of the top ten are in real estate development.

Now, back to the women. The richest is Yang Huiyan, with a US$17.5 billion fortune. She is only 26! What got her on the list? Her father transferred a majority ownership stake in his property development company, Country Garden Holdings, to her after she graduated from Ohio State University. In six months, the value of her stake rose by about 150% due to the booming market for China-related stocks, after an IPO in April. Since early this year, China has signaled a preference for domestic firms to list on the home market, as signified by new rules. Perhaps the fact that Yang Huiyan has Hong Kong residency as she was born in Hong Kong actually helped her become the richest woman in China. Maybe birthplace matters in more ways than we think!

The second richest is Zhang Yin, who is 50. She was number 1 last year, before the stock listing of Country Garden. This is one impressive woman. Her fortune is self-made and reflects what can be accomplished when China’s entrepreneurial talent is allowed to flourish. She is the richest self-made woman in the world, not just in China, with a fortune of US$10 billion. She benefits from the strong stock performance of her company, Nine Dragons Paper Holdings (ticker: 2689.HK). She started out on the entrepreneurial path in the mid-1980’s and her company is now one of the largest containerboard products companies in the world. At one point, to find good sources of raw materials for her company, she even moved to the US. This must have been difficult for her as she couldn’t even speak English at the time! I think it’s pretty safe to say, so far, Mrs. Zhang has had to work a lot harder for her money than Mrs. Yang.