BEIJING (AFP) - Asia's wealthiest woman lost more than half her fortune over the past year as China's real estate sector was rocked by a cash crunch, a billionaire index showed on Thursday (July 28).
Ms Yang Huiyan, a majority shareholder in Chinese property giant Country Garden, saw her net worth plunge by more than 52 per cent to US$11.3 billion (S$15.6 billion) from US$23.7 billion a year ago, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Ms Yang's fortune took a major hit on Wednesday when Country Garden's Hong Kong-listed shares fell 15 per cent after the company announced it would sell new shares to raise cash.
Ms Yang inherited her wealth when her father - Country Garden founder Yang Guoqiang - transferred his shares to her in 2005, according to state media.
She became Asia's richest woman two years later after the developer's initial public offering in Hong Kong.
But she is now barely holding on to that title, with chemical fibres tycoon Fan Hongwei a close runner-up with a net worth of US$11.2 billion on Thursday.
Chinese authorities cracked down on excessive debt in the property sector in 2020, leaving major players such as Evergrande and Sunac struggling to make payments and forcing them to renegotiate with creditors as they teetered on the edge of bankruptcy.
Buyers across the country, furious at lagging construction and delayed deliveries of their properties, have begun withholding mortgage payments for homes sold before completion.
While Country Garden has remained relatively unscathed by industry turmoil, it spooked investors with a Wednesday announcement that it planned to raise more than US$343 million through a share sale, partly to pay debts.
Proceeds from the sale would be used for "refinancing existing offshore indebtedness, general working capital and future development purposes", Country Garden said in a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange.
China's banking regulator has urged lenders to support the property sector and meet the "reasonable financing needs" of firms as analysts and policymakers fear financial contagion.
The property sector is estimated to account for 18 per cent to 30 per cent of the country's gross domestic product and is a key driver of growth in the world's second-largest economy.
Analysts have warned that the industry is mired in a "vicious cycle" that would further dampen consumer confidence, following the release of dismal second quarter growth figures that were the worst since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.