Diana Chen, one of China’s richest women, is not your typical iron industry baron.
Ms Chen, 36, is a Western-educated “princeling”, as the children and grandchildren of China’s communist elite are known. Her late grandfather, Lu Dong, was China’s metallurgy minister in the 1960s and 1970s.
今年夏天，陈宁宁对香港上市的中国东方集团(China Oriental Group)发起了敌意收购。此前，她与持有东方集团45%股权的主席韩敬远闹翻。东方集团控制着湖北省一座中等规模的钢铁厂。
This summer, Ms Chen launched a hostile takeover for Hong Kong-listed China Oriental Group, which controls a mid-sized steel mill in Hebei province. Her bid came after a falling out with Han Jingyuan, Oriental’s chairman, who controls 45 per cent of the company.
Such manoeuvres are unusual in an industry forged by conservative central planners such as Ms Chen’s grandfather. But then so is the career path of China’s “iron princess”.
上世纪90年代早期，陈宁宁到纽约理工学院(New York Institute of Technology)攻读MBA学位，毕业后回香港与母亲一同创办了嘉鑫钢铁集团有限公司(Pioneer Iron & Steel Group)。她的母亲在大学期间曾学习冶金专业，但此前从未涉足该行业。在此后短短10年时间，嘉鑫钢铁成为中国最大的铁矿石民营进口商。去年，《福布斯》杂志(Forbes)估计，陈宁宁个人财富高达2.16亿美元。
In the early 1990s, Ms Chen studied for an MBA degree at the New York Institute of Technology before returning to Hong Kong to start Pioneer Iron & Steel Group with her mother, who had studied metallurgy in university but was not previously involved in the industry. In little more than a decade since, Pioneer has become one of the largest private importers of iron ore into China. Last year Forbes magazine estimated Ms Chen’s wealth at $216m.
“It was a matter of using non-traditional means to approach a traditional industry,” Ms Chen says. “Before, everyone just did simple trading. We used intangible assets and skills to help [state-owned companies such as Wuhan Iron and Steel Group, and Angang New Steel Company] get loans and to reform themselves to prepare for IPOs.”
Those services were provided free of charge, says Ms Chen, but they helped build relationships and gave her an in-depth knowledge of the companies. By the turn of the century, when the steel industry revived on the back of China’s economic growth, Pioneer was well-positioned to bring together China’s steel makers and foreign iron miners. “By 2003, we were importing about 15-20 per cent of China’s iron ore,” she says.
Ms Chen admits that being the descendant of a top communist official has helped, “but only in the sense that people knew you came from a respectable family. My grandfather was never corrupt, and my mother always told me not to shame my grandfather’s name?.?.?.?I had the guanxi [connections], but I never used them.”