Friday, July 27, 2012

Singapore's richest grow 9% richer: Forbes


Business Times: Fri, Jul 27

[SINGAPORE] Facebook's co-founder, Singapore's "Popiah King", and CEO of supermarket chain Sheng Siong - while these individuals may seem like an odd mix, they are among Singapore's 40 richest people who are worth US$59.4 billion collectively, 9 per cent more than the US$54.4 billion last year, according to the latest Singapore Rich List by Forbes Asia.

While 16 tycoons grew richer, 14 saw declines in their wealth.

Robert and Philip Ng, sons of the late founder of Far East Organization, Ng Teng Fong, retained their top position on the list with an estimated net worth of US$9.2 billion, up US$300 million from US$8.9 billion last year. Far East Organization, together with its Hong Kong-based sister company Sino Group, is one of Asia's largest real estate groups with a combined annual turnover of US$5.5 billion.

Behind them are the family of the late banker Khoo Teck Puat and United Overseas Bank (UOB) chairman Wee Cho Yaw, who come in second with US$6.7 billion and third with US$4.7 billion respectively.

Mr Khoo left his fortune in 2004 to his 14 children, who still control the Goodwood Group of Hotels in Singapore but sold their stake in Standard Chartered Bank in 2006 for an estimated US$4 billion.

Mr Wee, whose fortune rose 12 per cent from 2011, boosted his stake in property developer UOL. His family's private real estate unit, Kheng Leong, submitted a winning bid of US$193 million for a plot of land slated for condominium development in April this year.

Making their entrance on the list this year are eight newcomers. Perhaps the most recognisable of them is Eduardo Saverin, the 30-year-old Facebook co-founder who can now provide a status update: he joins 15 other billionaires in Singapore, coming in eighth with a net worth of US$2.2 billion.

Since his arrival in Singapore in 2009, he has invested in start-ups such as Qwiki and Jumio, which created the online payment company Netswipe.

Joining him on the list this year are property magnates Raj Kumar and his son Kishin RK in 11th place with US$1.5 billion. Mr Raj Kumar's brother, Asok Kumar Hiranandani, ranks 19th with US$910 million.

Not all the tycoons on the list are scions or tech junkies, though. Lim Hock Chee, the son of a pig farmer who started out with a stall selling pork, is now chief executive of Singapore's third-largest food retailer Sheng Siong, making his debut at 35th place with US$345 million.

Recognising the importance of education for such social mobility, many tycoons have pledged their support for the cause.

For instance, Philip Ng, who is also chairman of the newly-opened Singapore University of Technology & Design, raised US$10 million for scholarships in less than two hours at an opening of the university. He rounded up donors like "Popiah King" Sam Goi, ranked 14th with a wealth of US$1.3 billion, who donated $800,000.

Banyan Tree executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping, who places 40th with US$280 million, also chairs the Singapore Management University (SMU) board of trustees. Sitting with him on the board is Loo Choon Yong, executive chairman of Raffles Hospital Group, who is in 29th place.

Real estate tycoon Chua Thian Poh has also pledged US$4 million for a programme at the National University of Singapore, despite falling from 21st to 31st place on the list with US$470 million compared to US$555 million last year.

Forbes calculated the individuals' public fortunes based on stock prices and exchange rates as of July 13, while private companies were valued based on similar publicly-traded companies. The ranking lists family fortunes, including those shared among extended families.

  
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