Stock market fall dampens Singapore billionaires' fortunes

Property magnate Chua Thian Poh of Ho Bee Land has bucked the trend of declining fortunes faced by Singapore's wealthiest.
Property magnate Chua Thian Poh of Ho Bee Land has bucked the trend of declining fortunes faced by Singapore's wealthiest. PHOTO: ST FILE

The faltering markets have dented the fortunes of many of Singapore's wealthiest, although some billionaires bucked the trend, said Forbes magazine.

It noted that the overall wealth of Singapore's 50 richest people has inched up just 2.4 per cent from a year ago, while the number of billionaires rose from 28 last year to 29.

"While the Singapore dollar has remained flat, the stock market fell 10 per cent since the 2015 ranking, buffeting several fortunes," it said.

"More than half of the returnees to this year's list saw a decline in their fortunes."

But some billionaires bucked the downward trend, including property magnate Chua Thian Poh of Ho Bee Land, "thanks to a diversified portfolio, which includes overseas assets". He was ranked 23rd on the list, up from 26th last year, with a net worth of US$1.2 billion (S$1.6 billion).

Tycoon Oei Hong Leong slipped a spot to 28th place, but his net worth is US$1.1 billion, up from US$1 billion a year ago.

There were three newcomers to the top 50 list: India-born Singapore resident Arvind Tiku; Mr Kuik Ah Han, founder of developer Sim Lian Group; and Mr Tan Min-Liang, co-founder and chief executive of gaming company Razer.

Mr Tiku, who is in 14th place with a net worth of US$1.8 billion, "has interests in oil and gas, property and renewable energy held through his private holding outfit AT Holdings", said Forbes.

Mr Kuik entered at 39th spot, with a net worth of US$625 million, while Mr Tan was ranked 41st at US$600 million.

The weaker property market has meant real estate loosened its grip on the list, with Oxley Holdings boss Ching Chiat Kwong, Stamford Land Corporation executive chairman Ow Chio Kiat and India-born hotelier and developer Satinder Garcha dropping out of the top 50.

Property magnates and siblings Robert and Philip Ng, who run developer Far East Organization, maintained their top spot even after a slight dent in wealth from US$8.7 billion last year to US$8.6 billion this year.

"Robust revenues from Hong Kong arm Sino Group, overseen by Robert and his son Daryl, helped offset a sluggish property market in Singapore," said Forbes.

The Straits Trading Company executive chairman Chew Gek Khim, named by Forbes as "the only woman in the ranks" this year, is at 49th, down from 41st last year, with a net worth of US$460 million.

Other women joined the list as part of a family or couple.

Billionaire businesswoman Christina Ong - founder of luxury fashion and lifestyle retailer Club 21 and luxury hotel brand Como Hotels and Resorts - and her husband, property tycoon Ong Beng Seng, moved to 12th spot from 14th last year. Their net worth rose to US$2 billion from US$1.8 billion.

Singapore resident Eduardo Saverin made the largest gain, jumping three places to third, with a net worth of US$7.2 billion, up from US$5.4 billion last year. He is also the youngest by individual net worth on the list.

"The 34-year-old Facebook co-founder has reinvented himself as a venture capitalist but still derives wealth from his minority stake in the social media giant.

"Saverin also invested in 99.co, a Singapore property-hunting site and Xfers, a payment-processing start-up," said Forbes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline 'Stock market fall dampens Singapore billionaires' fortunes'. Print Edition | Subscribe