She was one of the richest people in China’s second-wealthiest province Zhejiang. Her prosperity was a typical Cinderella-like rise story. Now she is struggling to pay 300 million dollars after watching her enterprise of sweating tears collapse.
Zhou Xiaoguang came from a humble beginning with simple peasant family background. At the teenage age of 16 years old, she left school and started working as her parents could not afford her tuition fees.
From selling embroidery needles and patterns on streets to renting a stall to sell accessories, Zhou took care of one younger brother and five younger sisters while supporting the entire family on her own.
A decade later, in 1995, she opened Neoglory Jewelry, a low-cost accessories manufacturer. Her enterprise later expanded over the borders, with Neoglory Jewelry making the name the world’s largest in costume and fashion jewelry. Chinese then know of Zhou as the Queen of Jewelry.
Zhou founded Neoglory Holdings Group, with Neoglory Jewelry turned into its subsidiary.
Zhou later ventured into other fields, from financial investment to the Internet, and to real estate. Her enterprise set foot in nearly all sectors. Thanks to her, Yiwu World Trade Center, luxury Shangri-La Yiwu hotels, and other well-known landmark building projects materialized.
The group’s property development unit went public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange as ST Xinguang (ST新光一纸) through a back-door offering in April 2016. At the time, its market capitalization was 19.02 billion yuan, 2.8 billion dollars.
It had more than 40 shareholding companies and nearly 100 holding subsidiaries with total assets of 12 billion dollars.
In March 2018, Zhou was ranked No.28 on the Hurun Global Self-Made Rich List. Having 3.6 billion dollars, she became the richest woman in the opulent province of Zhejiang.
The glory would not last long.
Half a year later, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange issued a 330 million dollars debt default concern letter to Neoglory Group.
The world suddenly learned that the Chinese Queen of Jewelry had been in a major debt crisis, which totaled more than 5.1 billion dollars.
In April 2019, a bankruptcy court declared that Neoglory “is unable to repay a due debt, has insufficient assets for repaying all its debts and is apparently insolvent.”
Many of the group’s subsidiaries went bankrupt and reorganized one after another.
All assets were liquidated in the end, and a large number of international debts were outstanding.
As the Wall Street Journal noted, the downfall of Neoglory was a reckoning for bold expansion at unfamiliar sectors, while being unaware of strategic mistakes.
The news outlet reads, “For a generation, China’s explosive growth rewarded bold expansion, and many borrowed heavily to seize the moment.”
It added, “Full-steam growth also masked companies’ strategic mistakes—in addition to excessive debt, many overexpanded into unfamiliar and crowded business sectors.”
On May 24 this year, ST Xinguang received a risk warning that it would be delisted in a month. Now the firm only has 855 million dollars in market value left.
According to Mustang Finance 野马财经, as of June 2, ST Xinguang saw a decline of 10.26% the closing stock price was 0.35 yuan (0.053 dollars) per share, and the market value was only 640 million yuan, 96 million dollars. It was a shrinkage of 97.72% compared to the peak of 27.219 billion yuan, 4 billion dollars when the company was still in its heyday.