This story appears in the November 2022 issue of Forbes Asia. Subscribe to Forbes Asia
This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of China’s Richest 2022. See the full list here.
Longfor Group Holdings, which remained relatively unscathed this year as debt troubles and shrinking buyer confidence battered its property peers, saw shares plunge in October when cofounder Wu Yajun resigned as chairman, citing her age and health. Wu, who will continue to advise the company on its strategic development, is the country’s richest woman, despite her net worth falling by half to $7.1 billion since we last measured fortunes.
Her Beijing-headquartered company saw net profit inch up in the first half from a year earlier to 7.5 billion yuan ($1.1 billion), while revenue jumped 56%, even as contracted sales fell 40% to 85.8 billion yuan. It delivered 52,500 residences to buyers over the period, almost a third of which were ahead of schedule. This was despite government measures aimed at reducing debt among developers that prompted some to halt work on projects.
Over the years, Wu took a cautious approach to expansion, even when the sector was enjoying double-digit growth. Recurring rental income from investment properties has helped to support the bottom line. Revenue from Longfor’s 65 shopping malls jumped 26% in the first half, while sales at its property rental business Goyoo grew 11%. Longfor had a net debt ratio of 55% as of June 2022, lower than most of its competitors. Meanwhile, property management arm Longfor Intelligent Living filed for an IPO in Hong Kong, reportedly to raise $1 billion. Its 2021 revenue soared 71% to 11 billion yuan.
Wu’s 43% stake in Longfor is held by her daughter, who votes in line with Wu’s instructions. Rumors in August that Longfor had defaulted on a loan payment sent shares into a tailspin, but the stock rebounded the next day after the company denied the allegations.