China's richest person is 26-year old woman: Forbes

BEIJING Mon Oct 8, 2007 12:56pm EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - The twenty-six year-old daughter of a rags-to-riches property developer is China's wealthiest person, with a $16 billion fortune, Forbes magazine said on Monday.

Yang Huiyan shot to the top of the China Rich List after the firm her father founded floated on the Hong Kong stock exchange in April, creating five billionaires at once.

Her low-profile father, Yeung Kwok Keung -- who worked as a farmer and on construction sites before making his fortune, according to Chinese media -- had transferred his stake in Country Garden Holdings Co. to his daughter in 2005.

Also Asia's richest woman, the Ohio State University graduate this year married the son of a top Chinese official she met on a blind date, the China Daily reported.

She is one of the few on the list to have inherited her wealth, in a country where booming economic growth has created fortunes virtually overnight.

The economy has expanded so fast that the country's 40 wealthiest people are now all dollar billionaires, compared with just 15 last year, Forbes said in a press release.

Their combined net worth more than tripled to $120 billion, from last year's $38 billion, Forbes said.

But as the number of the super-rich grows, officials in Beijing are stepping up efforts to tackle the gulf between rich and poor because they fear it threatens social stability.

Real estate was among the most lucrative sectors. Eight of the top ten have big property development interests.

"Household incomes are rising rapidly, and a growing number of people are moving into cities from rural areas. Those trends are creating great business opportunities for property developers," said Russell Flannery, Forbes senior editor and compiler of the China Rich List.

Country Garden, based in the southern city of Guangdong focuses on building villas, townhouses and large apartments.

Yang's father is still chairman and chief executive while she sits on the board as an executive director.

Last year's number one on the Forbes list, Wong Kwong Yu, slipped nine places to squeeze into the top ten, even though his fortune rose by nearly 50 percent.

Forbes compiles its list by looking at stakes in listed and private companies and other assets. It excludes Hong Kong residents like tycoon Li Ka-shing -- estimated by Forbes to have a $22 billion fortune in January.

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