SINGAPORE - The founder and chief executive of Montpellier-based Altrad Group, Mr Mohed Altrad, was named EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2015 at an awards ceremony on Saturday held in Monaco's Salle des Etoiles.
Mr Mohed was picked from among the 65 country winners from 53 countries vying for the title.
Flying the flag for Singapore was Dr Kar Wong, group managing director of Advanced Group of Companies, who was named the overall winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year for Singapore in December last year.
Mr Mohed, who was born into a Bedouin tribe in Syria, moved to France aged 17 and went on to gain a PhD in Computer Sciences.
He and a partner bought a nearly bankrupt scaffolding maker in 1985 to form the basis of what is now Altrad Group. Mr Mohed developed the company through acquisitions and organic growth and in 2014 generated nearly US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) in sales and employed nearly 7,000 people in 110 subsidiaries throughout the world.
The company, which is the world leader in cement mixers and a European leader in scaffolding and wheelbarrows, will reach US$1.13 billion in revenues by 2016. Mr Mohed is also president of Montpellier Hérault Rugby Club.
Ms Rebecca MacDonald, founder and executive chair of Just Energy Group, chair of the World Entrepreneur Of The Year judging panel said the award to Mr Mohed "was a tough but ultimately unanimous decision".
She said Mr Mohed has had to overcome a humble and very challenging upbringing, which included being forbidden from going to school as a child
He subsequently moved to France to set up a new life.
"The judges were impressed by his ability to build and sustain growth over 30 years and by his humility and character," she noted.
"I want to dedicate this award to everyone, as the objective of life is to help humanity," said Mr Mohed Altrad.
"My story should tell anyone that you can change your destiny."