SINGAPORE - Consumers' love for hotpot has propelled Haidilao founder Zhang Yong to the top of the 2019 Forbes Singapore Rich List, with a net worth of US$13.8 billion (S$19.17 billion).
Mr Zhang replaces long-time leaders, property tycoons Robert and Philip Ng of Far East Organization, who are now second with a combined wealth of US$12.1 billion.
The Ng brothers had previously occupied the top spot on the list every year this decade, Forbes Asia said in a press statement on Thursday (Aug 29).
Mr Zhang, who was previously featured among China's richest, is now a naturalised Singapore citizen and resident. His company is also increasingly global in its expansion, Forbes Asia noted.
Meanwhile, the Ng's family fortune continues to benefit from premium prices for its high-end properties, which remain undented by the recent political ructions in Hong Kong or by Singapore's slowing economy, Forbes Asia said.
Despite looming global headwinds and a stock market that declined 3.5 per cent since last year's rich list, the collective wealth of Singapore's top 50 richest grew by more than 12 per cent to US$130 billion, mostly due to the inclusion of Mr Zhang this year.
Facebook billionaire and Singapore resident Eduardo Saverin saw his fortune fall by US$1.2 billion to come in at No. 3 with a net worth of US$10.6 billion. Mr Saverin retains a minority stake in the social media behemoth, which has been battling investor concerns about user privacy issues.
Coming in fourth on the list is paint tycoon Goh Cheng Liang, who has a stake in Japan's Nippon Paint Holdings, and saw a billion-dollar boost to his net worth to US$9.5 billion this year.
The biggest dollar gainer this year, however, is Hong Leong Group's chairmain Kwek Leng Beng who bagged the fifth spot, with a net worth of US$8.8 billion. The property tycoon added US$1.2 billion to his wealth partly attributable to an overseas expansion of his flagship City Developments, which acquired two London office properties for US$690 million in 2018.
Other notable listees this year include Forrest Li, who makes his mark as this year's only online gaming billionaire after debuting on the list last year. Mr Li jumps 21 spots to No. 21, as his net worth more than doubled to US$1.57 billion from US$738 million previously.
That said, more than half of the returnees to this year's list saw their wealth decline. These include shipping tycoon Chang Yun Chung (No. 22), who suffered a 27 per cent erosion in his wealth to US$1.5 billion, amid a sluggish shipping sector in the trade-dependent country, Forbes Asia noted. At age 101, Mr Chang is the world's oldest billionaire.
Two newcomers to the rich list are the Wong brothers of Singapore-based footwear brand Charles & Keith, who came in at No. 34 with a net worth of US$970 million, and Gang Ye (No. 37, US$900 million), who co-founded US-listed Sea, and holds just under 9 per cent of the company's shares.
Separately, there are three drop-offs this year, including Ching Chiat Kwong, a former cop-turned-developer, who is also known as the king of shoebox apartments. The debt-fuelled expansion of his Oxley Holdings made investors wary, causing its shares to dip, Forbes Asia explained.