For years, her fortune has been the center of headlines, commentary and calculations beyond China.
Yang Huiyan, just 41, is not only the richest woman in that country, but also the richest in all of Asia.
Since inheriting a real estate empire from his father over a decade ago, his wealth has continued to grow. But things changed in 2022: in the past year, it has experienced a real decline. According to calculations by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Yang has seen his net worth drop more than 52% in the past year.
In 2021, Bloomberg estimated the businesswoman’s fortune at about US$33.9 billion (about R$173 billion), which fell to about US$16.1 billion (about R$80 billion) in the estimates of last July.
Economic analysts saw this not only as a grim sign of the state of China’s housing market, but also as a major warning about the future of the world’s second-largest economy.
It is because the country’s real estate sector has presented serious problems with falling housing prices, decreasing demand from buyers and a crisis of bad debts that has affected some large real estate developers since 2020.
The situation reached such a point that even some banks ran out of money, which caused protests in some cities in the Asian country.
And while Yang remains the richest woman in Asia, her position has begun to wobble.
According to Bloomberg, she is followed by chemical fiber entrepreneur Fan Hongwei, who also has assets valued at around $16 billion.
But who is Yang Huiyan and how did she get one of the biggest fortunes in the world?
Born in 1981 in Shuntak, district of the city of Foshan, in the province of Guangzhou, in southern China, Yang is the daughter of one of the richest men in the Asian country: Yang Guoqiang.
Raised in one of the most powerful families in China, she had an excellent education and was sent to the United States in her youth. She graduated in 2003 with a degree in Arts and Science from Ohio State University.
Upon returning to China, she inherited from his father in 2007 a majority of shares in Country Garden Holdings, the largest real estate developer in China in sales.
Founded in 1992 in Guangzhou, Country Garden Holdings became successful after its IPO in Hong Kong and raised around US$1.6 billion, roughly the same as Google after its US IPO in 2004.
Although known for staying out of the public eye and leading a low-key life, Yang is the center of countless headlines both inside and outside of China.
One of the most notorious cases took place in 2018, when the leak of legal documents known as “The Cyprus Papers” showed that she had obtained Cypriot citizenship in 2018, despite China not recognizing dual nationality.
Chinese market scholars describe Yang as a creative woman with a business acumen.
In June of last year, the International Hospitality Institute recognized her in its ranking of the most powerful people in the global hospitality industry.
However, his business was already showing signs of weakness.
The real estate market situation in the country has been complicated since 2020, not only because of the coronavirus pandemic, but also because the Chinese authorities tried to contain excessive indebtedness in the real estate sector. That left the big builders exposed to a battle to make the payments and forced them to renegotiate with their creditors.
The crisis worsened when Evergrande, China’s most indebted real estate company, defaulted on its dollar-denominated bonds at the end of 2021 after months of liquidity problems.
Chinese real estate giant Evergrande suspends stock exchange operations again
In the wake of that and so far this year, several other major developers, including Kaisa and Shimao Group, have also sought protection from creditors.
The crisis has worsened in recent weeks, after a “buyers’ strike” was reported, after thousands of people defaulted on their mortgages due to delays in starting construction work on their homes. With the delay in the delivery of homes, developers did not start receiving mortgage payments on time.
All this led Country Garden, which was doing well in the first months of the pandemic, also facing a liquidity problem, to the point that last July it had to sell shares at a discount of almost 13% to raise funds.
And the long-term outlook doesn’t look good for Yang, her fortune or the company she represents.
In a report last July, the ratings agency S&P estimated that home sales in China could fall by a third this year due to mortgage strikes, a collective movement in which buyers decided to suspend mortgage payments on properties that were under construction. did not meet the delivery schedule.
Meanwhile, Capital Economics, an independent economic research firm based in London, predicted that “without sales, many other developers will collapse, which is a financial and economic threat” to China.
– This text was originally published at https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/internacional-62512753