One of China’s richest women takes over for her father at real estate developer Country Garden | CNN Business

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Hong Kong
CNN
 — 

One of China’s richest women has fully taken over Country Garden, a top real estate developer, after her father resigned, which added to a string of prominent entrepreneurs retreating from their posts during a historic downturn in the property market.

Yang Huiyan succeeded her father Yang Guoqiang as chairman of the company that he founded, according to a Wednesday filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange, which said the appointment took effect the same day.

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

Yang Guoqiang, founder of Country Garden, attends a signing ceremony in November 2017 in Guangdong province.

The elder Yang was a farmer and construction worker before he founded Country Garden in 1992. In little more than a decade, he grew the firm into one of the largest real estate developers in the country.

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

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

Yang Huiyan, center, attends an alumni event in the city of Foshan in Guangdong province in June 2016.

Yang, 41, had a net worth of $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 has a fortune of $9.7 billion.

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

Yang’s father resigned at a time when China’s property market is mired in a historic downturn.

The real estate sector has been lurching from one crisis to another since 2020, when Beijing started cracking down on excessive borrowing by developers to rein in their high debt. A debt crisis hit the industry after Evergrande, the second largest property developer in China, suffered a severe cash crunch and defaulted on its debt in late 2021.

Since then, a number of cash-strapped developers have sought protection from creditors.

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

An aerial view of a residential project developed by Country Garden in Zhenjiang city in eastern China's Jiangsu province in October 2021.

Home sales have plummeted alongside buyer confidence. Sentiment cooled even further last year after thousands of home buyers refused to continue paying mortgages on unfinished properties. The crash in the real estate market has dealt a blow to the finances of local governments, which rely heavily on land sales revenue.

Authorities have shifted policy to rescue the industry, including easing restrictions on borrowing for developers and rolling out loans. But the recovery seems to be slow.

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

In November, Zhang Lei, founder and chairman of Modern Land, resigned from his positions at the company. Modern Land is a major developer based in Beijing building energy-saving homes throughout the country.

In October, Wu Yajun, founder and chairwoman of Longfor Properties, stepped down due to health and age reasons, the company said.

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

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