Divorce pushes female tycoon from top spot

Updated: 2012-11-21 02:42

By Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily)

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Longfor boss no longer China's richest woman, but separation 'peaceful, friendly'

Wu Yajun, chairwoman of Longfor Properties Co Ltd, has lost her title as China's richest woman after divorcing and transferring about 30 percent of her shares in the corporation to her now ex-husband, Cai Kui.

Her stake in Longfor, which the two co-founded, has dropped from a combined 75.6 percent to 45.4 percent, leaving her net worth estimated at $4.2 billion, down from $7.3 billion.

Yang Huiyan, an executive director of Country Garden Holdings Co and the daughter of company founder Yang Guoqiang, now becomes China's richest woman with a fortune of $5 billion.

A Longfor spokesman on Tuesday said the divorce had been completed in a "peaceful and friendly" manner, and the share split between the co-founders won't violate debt covenants.

Their individual shareholdings had been held separately under two trust companies, and since Cai had not held an executive role in Longfor, the divorce will not affect the company's operating, Chinese media said.

Longfor's shares dropped 4.2 percent — the most in almost two weeks — at the close of Hong Kong trading on Tuesday.

But financial institutions predicted the divorce will not have a significant impact on the share price.

Barclays Bank said in a note that the divorce's impact on Longfor shares would be limited unless Cai sells his now 29 percent stake in the business.

Wu, a native of Chongqing, was born in 1964. She graduated from Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, in 1984 and worked for China City Sightseeing Newspaper from 1988 to 1993 as a reporter and editor.

The newspaper was affiliated to the construction bureau of Chongqing municipal government, enabling her to build up contacts in government and business circles.

In 1995, she set up Chongqing Zhongjianke Real Estate Co Ltd with registered capital of 10 million yuan ($1.6 million). The company was later renamed Chongqing Longfor Properties Co Ltd.

Longfor expanded steadily and by 2008 its sales exceeded 2 billion yuan, making it one of the country's major property.

The company raised $1 billion in a 2009 initial public offering in Hong Kong.

Despite the massive wealth and success, Wu has maintained a low profile, never given media interviews, and as a result, little is known of her life away from business. But industry insiders describe her as a perfectionist with a strong ability to get the job done.

Hu Yuanyuan contributed to this story.

Contact the writer at zhengyangpeng@chinadaily.com.cn