Monday, October 8, 2007

China's Richest Person? Not Who You Think

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Who do you think is China's richest person? Some oil tycoon? Some government honcho? Some telecom monopolist?

Nope. A 26 year old woman. Oh Paris Hilton, you have nothing on Yang Huiyan. Worst she is a Buckeye! An Ohio State alum (blah!)
  • China's efforts to put the brakes on the country's booming property market this year didn't stop the 26-year-old daughter of one of China's largest property developers from coming in on top in our annual survey of China's richest.
  • Yang Huiyan tops this year's list with a net worth of $16.2 billion, nearly seven times the $2.3 billion that retailer Wong Kwong Yu needed to rank No. 1 in 2006.
  • Yang's father, the low-profile chairman of Country Gardens, turned over his shares to his daughter in 2005, and her wealth has soared with the company's stock price since the company went public in Hong Kong in April.
  • Yang, an alumnus of Ohio State University, is hardly alone in getting very rich, very quick. All 40 members of the Forbes Asia list of China's richest this year are billionaires, up from just 15 last year.
  • Yang, an alumnus of Ohio State University, is hardly alone in getting very rich, very quick. All 40 members of the Forbes Asia list of China's richest this year are billionaires, up from just 15 last year.
  • Behind the trend: China's double-digit economic growth and the rising value of its stock market. Fat valuations are attracting low-key companies like Country Gardens into the public markets in search of capital and riches. There, investment banks like Morgan Stanley (MS), hungry for investment banking fees, are finding happy customers even hungrier to get a piece of booming China into their portfolios.
  • One of the biggest beneficiaries of all: property owners. China's government has been trying to slow demand with higher taxes, worried about income distribution and high prices.
  • Yet the country's well-off upper class and nascent middle class are both splurging on better digs during a time of prosperity. Urbanization is also propelling demand for new apartments, homes, and office and retail space, as the country's once-overwhelming rural population moves to the city. Shares in property developers that are listed on international exchanges are in strong demand because foreigners see property as a good way to play the slow-motion, one-way direction of China's mighty renminbi against just about all other currencies.
  • More than a dozen developers made the list. Among them were five spawned by Country Garden's IPO: Yang Erzhu, Su Rubo, Zhang Yaoyuan and Ou Xueming, in addition to Yang. Just today, Beijing celebrity developer Zhang Xin cashed in by listing SOHO China in Hong Kong.
  • The new list showcases a boom across all industries. Nasdaq-listed Baidu.com's ( BIDU) founder, Robin Li, returned this year. Newcomers, who account for half of the 40 places, include private entrepreneurs who are gaining ground in a China energy industry long dominated by the state. Among them, Xiaofeng Peng of LDK Solar (LDK) and Liansheng Miao of Yingli Green Energy (YGE); both companies are U.S.-listed solar energy upstarts. Returnees included Cho Tak Wong (last year listed as Cao Dewang), whose auto parts maker Fuyao is being courted as an investment target by Goldman Sachs (nyse: GS - news - people ).

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