One of China’s richest women is taking over her father’s position at property developer Country Garden

Hong Kong

One of China’s richest women has taken full ownership of Country Garden, a leading property developer, after her father stepped down, adding to a string of prominent businessmen who have stepped down during a historic property downturn .

Yang Huiyan succeeded her father Yang Guoqiang as chairman of the company she founded, according to a Wednesday filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange, which said the appointment was effective the same day.

Yang, 68, also known as Yeung Kwok Keung in Cantonese, had tendered his resignation as chairman “due to age”, the statement said.

The elder Yang was a farmer and construction worker before founding Country Garden in 1992. In just over a decade, he grew the company into one of the largest real estate developers in the country.

The company boasted a record $1.7 billion IPO in Hong Kong in 2007. Last year, Country Garden was China’s No. 1 developer in sales, which reached $67 billion.

The younger Yang served as the company’s co-chairman since 2018 and jointly managed day-to-day operations with her father.

Yang Huiyan, center, attends an alumni event in Foshan City, Guangdong Province in June 2016.

Young, 41, was worth $9.2 billion as of Thursday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That placed her as China’s second-richest woman, behind only Wu Yajun, the 59-year-old founder of Longfor Properties, who is worth $9.7 billion.

Yang Huiyan’s wealth comes mainly from her majority stake in Country Garden, which was largely passed down to her by her father in 2005, two years before the company’s IPO.

Yang’s father stepped down at a time when China’s real estate market is sinking into a historic slump.

The property sector has been reeling from one crisis to another since 2020, when Beijing began cracking down on excessive borrowing by developers to rein in their high debt. A debt crisis hit the industry after Evergrande, China’s second-largest property developer, suffered a severe cash crunch and defaulted on its debt at the end of 2021.

Since then, several cash-strapped developers have sought protection from creditors.

Country Garden’s share price has lost more than half its value in the past year.

An aerial view of a residential project developed by Country Garden in Zhenjiang City, east China's Jiangsu Province in October 2021.

Home sales have plummeted along with buyer confidence. Sentiment soured even further last year after thousands of homebuyers refused to continue paying mortgages on unfinished properties. The crash in the real estate market has hit the finances of local governments, which rely heavily on revenue from land sales.

Authorities have changed policy to save the industry, including easing lending restrictions for developers and lending. But the recovery seems to be slow.

Yang Guoqiang’s resignation is the latest in a string of departures by prominent real estate entrepreneurs.

In November, Zhang Lei, founder and chairman of Modern Land, resigned from his positions at the company. Modern Land is a major Beijing-based manufacturer that builds energy-efficient homes across the country.

In October, Wu Yajun, founder and chairman of Longfor Properties, resigned due to health and age reasons, the company said.

In September, Pan Shiyi and his wife Zhang Xin stepped down from their roles as chairman and CEO of Soho China, a Beijing-based developer.

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