China's richest woman is biggest loser in trade war

Ms Zhou Qunfei, chairman of consumer electronics supplier Lens Technology, lost US$6.6 billion of her fortune.
Ms Zhou Qunfei, chairman of consumer electronics supplier Lens Technology, lost US$6.6 billion of her fortune.

HONG KONG • iPhone and Tesla touchscreens once made her China's richest woman. The US-China trade war has made her the biggest loser this year among Chinese billionaires.

Ms Zhou Qunfei, chairman of consumer electronics supplier Lens Technology, has lost 66 per cent of her fortune, or US$6.6 billion (S$9.1 billion), this year - the biggest drop in percentage terms among China's wealthy - according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Lens Technology shares have slumped 62 per cent this year, driven by a sell-off of Apple suppliers as US President Donald Trump stepped up trade tariffs on China, and as Mr Elon Musk agreed to resign as Tesla chairman following a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) probe. The wealth rout has also dragged down the fortunes of billionaires like Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma and Tencent chief executive Ma Huateng. Chinese billionaires among the world's top 500 richest people have lost a combined US$86 billion this year.

Many Apple suppliers in greater China, including Lens, fell last month after Mr Trump said he was willing to slap tariffs on an additional US$267 billion of Chinese goods, on top of duties on US$200 billion in imports he was already considering.

Tariffs and relocation of manufacturing plants to the US would increase costs, while the possible rise of nationalism in China may lead to a boycott of US brands such as Apple, hurting suppliers, Capital Futures analyst Yeason Jung said.

Lens also laminates display panels for Tesla. Many of Tesla's Asian suppliers declined after the SEC accused Mr Musk of misleading investors when he tweeted about taking the carmaker private, leading to a US$40 million settlement.

After working for six years at a factory producing glasses, Ms Zhou left to start her company in Shenzhen, the predecessor to Lens Technology. It began trading on the Growth Enterprises board in Shenzhen in March 2015. Her husband, Mr Zheng Junlong, is a shareholder and vice-chairman of Lens.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2018, with the headline 'China's richest woman is biggest loser in trade war'. Print Edition | Subscribe