Indonesia's rich see their wealth rebound this year

A teller at a money changer handles Indonesia rupiah bank notes in Jakarta.
A teller at a money changer handles Indonesia rupiah bank notes in Jakarta.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesia's 50 richest people increased their wealth by about US$7 billion (S$10 billion) this year as growth in South-east Asia's biggest economy recovered and the stock market raced ahead, according to a Forbes list released on Thursday (Dec 1).

The business magazine said the combined net worth of the top 50 rose to US$99 billion.

Heading the list were Budi and Michael Hartono, whose joint wealth was put at US$17.1 billion. The brothers' wealth was partly boosted by the rising value of their shares in PT Bank Central Asia Tbk, Indonesia's biggest bank by market capitalisation, Forbes said.

Despite a growing middle class, inequality in Indonesia is increasing faster than in most of its East Asian neighbours, the World Bank said in a report at the end of 2015.

The eighth richest Indonesian man on the Forbes list, Tahir, the founder of the Mayapada Group, said the increased wealth may also be due to a tax amnesty aimed at pushing the rich to repatriate offshore wealth, or register it with authorities.

"We're registering all our properties in Indonesia and Singapore," said Tahir, who goes by one name and is estimated by Forbes to be worth US$3.1 billion.

Indonesia's economy is expected to grow 5 per cent this year, the central bank estimates, up from 4.8 per cent in 2015.

Many of the tycoons are of Chinese descent, even though they only make up just over 1 per cent of Indonesia's 250 million people, according to the latest census data. Their control of trade and business has in the past caused resentment.

Indonesia's stock market has risen 13 per cent this year, one of the best performers in the region.

Tobacco tycoon Susilo Wonowidjojo also recorded higher net worth due to the rising value of his family's cigarette company PT Gudang Garam Tbk.

Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who runs a media-to-property empire, was 29th on the list with his wealth estimated at US$1.15 billion.

The tycoon is one of the few with established links to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

Trump has a partnership with Tanoesoedibjo, who controls the MNC Group conglomerate, to manage hotels on the Indonesian island of Bali and in the West Java city of Bogor.

The richest Indonesians saw their combined wealth drop by US$9 billion in 2015 due to lower commodity prices and a weaker rupiah currency.