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[2020 Edition] The Richest In Singapore And How They Made Their Fortunes

Some have rags to riches stories, while others are more riches to riches.

The richest in Singapore has bucked the recession’s downward trend to emerge even wealthier than before. Forbes has recently updated their billionaire list and found that the collective wealth of those on the 2020 Forbes Singapore Rich List has risen US$37 billion to $167 billion, even as Singapore is going through a recession.

Without farther ado, here are the top 10 richest in Singapore. A departure from previous years, this year’s top list includes names from technology and medical sectors.

Read Also: Top 10 Richest People In Singapore 2019: How Much They’re Worth And How They Built Their Fortunes

#10 Wee Cho Yaw

Net Worth: $5.3B
Sector: Banking

At age 91, Wee Cho Yaw is a venerable main stay in Singapore’s billionaire list. Currently Chairman Emeritus of United Overseas Bank, he stepped down as director of UOB after sixty years. His oldest son Wee Ee Chong is UOB’s CEO, while his younger son Wee Ee Lim has a board seat.

Over the years, while staying true to their banking roots, the family has also expanded into real estate. In 2017, Wee acquired 45 unsold apartments in the Nassim, a luxury condo, for $411.6 million through his family’s real estate arm, Kheng Leong.

#9 Kwee Brothers

Net Worth: $5.5B
Sector: Real Estate

Founded by their Indonesian father, Pontiac Land is controlled by the four Kwee siblings today. They own luxury hotels in Singapore, Sydney and Maldives, prime commercial buildings across Singapore, as well as having developed premium residential buildings.

In New York, the brothers own majority stake in the luxurious 53W53 building, designed by Jean Nouvel, beside the Museum of Modern Art. In 2017, they acquired the Cappella Hotel group. Additionally, they are partnering Mayo Clinic to develop a hotel in the centre of the May Clinic campus in Rochester. In the coming 4Q2020, Pontiac Land is launching a luxury resort, Faris Islands, in Maldives.

#8 Khoo Family

Net Worth: $6.3B
Sector: Banking

The Khoo family are the heirs of late banker Khoo Teck Puat, who invested in Standard Chartered Bank in 1986. The lion’s share of their fortune comes from the sale of their stake in Standard Chartered Bank for $4 billion in 2006. They also own the Goodwood Group of Hotels, including Singapore’s historic Goodwood Park Hotel, which is currently chaired by Mavis Khoo-Oei.

The Khoo Foundation, the family’s charitable arm, funded the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore, which opened in 2010.

#7 Forrest Li

Net Worth: $7.1B
Sector: Technology/ Gaming

Founder of Singapore’s most valuable company, Sea, Forrest Li is a new entrant to the richest list, driven by a spectacular rally in Sea’s stock price. Under its name, Sea runs Garena, a online games developer and publisher, as well as Shopee, an e-commerce platform.

Sea is also moving into the e-payments and financial services space and has applied for one of Singapore’s digital retail banking licences.

#6 Kwek Leng Beng & family

Net Worth: $8.8B
Sector: Real Estate

Kwek Leng Beng is the executive chairman of Singapore’s Hong Leong Group, founded by his father in 1941. He is also the executive chairman of City Developments (CDL), Singapore’s second-largest property developer. In 2019, CDL successfully bought over the Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (M&C). Hong Leong Group also owns Hong Leong Finance which is Singapore’s largest finance company, with a network of 28 branches and 12 SME Centres.

Read Also: Singapore Is One Of The Richest Countries In The World: Are Singaporeans Really That Rich?

#5 Robert & Philip Ng

Net Worth: $13.2B
Sector: Real Estate

Brothers Robert and Philip Ng control Far East Organization, Singapore’s largest private landlord and property developer. The group was founded by their father Ng Teng Fong, who moved from China to Singapore in 1934, later known as “The King of Orchard Road.”

Their Hong Kong arm, Sino Group, is overseen by older sibling Robert and his son Daryl, while Philip oversees the Singapore interests which includes Yeo Hiap Seng.

Far East Organization is the only developer in the world to win ten FIABCI Prix d’Excellence Awards, the highest honour in international real estate

#4 Eduardo Saverin

Net Worth: $14B
Sector: Technology

Saverin cofounded Facebook with Harvard classmate Mark Zuckerberg in 2004. Today, he still derives most of his wealth from his small but valuable stake in Facebook. In 2016, he launched venture fund B Capital, with Raj Ganguly, backed by the Boston Consulting Group, which has recently closed $820 million for its second fund to invest in growth-stage startups.

A Brazilian native, Saverin has been a Singapore resident since renouncing his U.S. citizenship in 2012 ahead of Facebook’s IPO.

#3 Goh Cheng Liang

Net Worth: $14.8B
Sector: Paints

Goh Cheng Liang, founder of Wuthelam, started making paints in a small factory in Singapore before he went on to partner with Japan’s Nippon Paint in 1962, becoming the main distributor in Singapore, a collaboration that is ongoing today. His son, Goh Hup Jin, was appointed chairman of Nippon Paint in 2018 and also runs their privately held joint venture, Nipsea.

In 2020, Nippon Paint stuck a S$16.69 billion deal with Goh to merge and create a consolidated paints and coatings company in Asia, combining two of Asia’s biggest paints and coatings groups.

#2 Li Xiting

Net Worth: $17.8B
Sector: Medical Devices

Li Xiting is founder and chairman of Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics, a supplier of medical devices, headquartered in Shenzhen. Born in China, Li is now a naturalised Singapore citizen.

The growth of his wealth comes from the pandemic-driven for medical equipment including ventilators. Mindray donated $4.6 million worth of medical devices to hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in hard-hit Wuhan and northern Italy.

#1 Zhang Yong & Shu Ping

Net Worth: $19B
Sector: Restaurant

In the top spot is Zhang Yong, founder of Haidilao, and his wife, Shu Ping, co-founder and director. They are both naturalised Singapore citizens.

Haidilao which went public in September 2018, has US$3.8 billion in sales from 768 restaurants, mostly in China but also in the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Thanks to the love for its spicy dishes and attentive customer service, including offering free manicures for waiting customers, Haidilao is worth about $42B in market capitalisation.

The Richest In Singapore

This year seems to be an interesting year for the richest in Singapore. Instead, we see three billionaires who made their fortunes in technology and medical devices, a change from the usual real estate and banking tycoons – a reflection of the changes that the pandemic has wrought on our economy.

Four of the top ten billionaires are also naturalised Singapore citizens. Meanwhile, those who are Singapore-born are setting up their family fortunes or part of a family fortune.

Property remains a favourite of Singapore’s richest. The Wees and the Khoos who have made their initial wealth have also expanded to real estate while those who were already in real estate are still expanding in the area.

Interestingly, both Forrest Li and Eduardo Saverin who made their fortunes through technology are moving towards finance in different ways: e-payments/ online banking and venture capital. Perhaps, this is a new direction that the richest will move towards.

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