HOUSE POORER

These three Chinese property tycoons lost over $2 billion between them in the past year

Obsession
China Slowdown
Obsession
China Slowdown

Three of the four real estate billionaires who placed highest—in their industry—on last year’s Forbes China Rich List have seen their combined net worth shrink by $2.05 billion in the past 12 months.

In recent years, the Beijing government has tried everything possible to bring China’s sky high property prices down to earth. Real estate developers are still hurting from those measures. And now the economy is slowing on them. Chinese banks have cut lending to home builders while also pushing them to sell stock faster. The developers are largely not managing to do this.

According to the latest Forbes list, Hui Ka Yan, the founder of China’s biggest homebuilder by land reserves, Evergrande Group, has suffered the most in the past 12 months. Last year, he was the richest developer on on Forbes’ China Rich List and placed sixth overall, with a net worth of $6.2 billion. This year he took eighth place and became the second wealthiest real estate baron. His wealth dwindled to $4.9 billion.

Zhang Xin, who leads Soho China, Beijing’s largest house builder, has lost $650 million this year, according to Forbes. She was the fourth richest developer in last year’s ranking and 16th overall. She now ranks 21st and is worth $2.65 billion.

Yang Huiyan, the daughter of the founder of home builder Country Garden, has seen her fortune dip by $100 million in the past year, Forbes reported. She placed 11th on last year’s rich list, making her the third richest developer. This year she came in ninth on the overall list, despite her reduced her net worth. But as she is just 31 years old, she has time to climb back up the table. And she still has $4.4 billion to her name, Forbes says.

But not all property billionaires are doing badly. Wu Yajun, who co-founded developer Longfor Properties, has increased her net worth from $5.9 billion last year to $6.2 billion. Wu was the second richest developer last year, after Evergrande’s Hui. She is now in first place in her industry, according to Forbes’ calculations. Longfor has had a successful year due to a smart strategy of cutting prices and cranking up sales volumes.

(One tycoon who made his fortune in property and placed third on Forbes’ China list this year was excluded from our data set. That is Wang Jianlin of developer Dalian Wanda. According to Forbes, his net worth doubled this year over 2011, reaching $8 billion. But the magazine admits there is “more transparency” about the value of his holdings now than a year ago. Also, Wang has diversified out of housebuilding and become a major movie theater owner. Compiling rich lists is a subjective business, particularly in China where tycoons’ affairs tend to be shrouded in mystery. So it is not unusual for researchers to uncover new information that places someone much higher or lower on the league tables than the year before.)

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