Over the course of the year, Forbes Asia, the regional edition of the US business magazine, comes out with a list of 50 richest people of the different countries in Asia.
In late November, the magazine published online the list of Indonesia’s 50 richest, completing what is perhaps the most authoritative ranking of the wealthiest individuals in ASEAN’s five founding members, which include, these include Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand.
Curious to see how the fortunes of the Philippines’ richest people would compare with their counterparts in other Southeast Asian countries, we compiled Forbes Asia’s lists of the 50 richest people in each of the five countries. We then ranked all of them to see who would be included in a list of the 50 richest people in the region.
Interestingly, all five countries had a fairly good representation in the ASEAN 50 richest list: Indonesia had 12; Singapore, 11; Philippines, 10; Thailand, 9; and Malaysia, 8. The list was topped by Indonesian brothers R. Budi and Michael Hartono, who oversee the Djarum tobacco and banking empire. Their net worth reached $32.3 billion.
The results are surprising in a way. Though the Philippines has the lowest per capita GDP among the five countries, it ranked third in the number of tycoons in the top 50 list. It’s another indication that the rich in the Philippines have outsized fortunes relative to the size of the economy.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that the Philippines’ richest man, Henry Sy, founder of the SM Group retail and property empire, with a net worth of $18 billion, emerged as the third wealthiest person in the ASEAN-5 grouping. He beat not only Malaysia’s richest person, Robert Kuok, with a net worth of 11.4 billion, but also Singapore’s richest men, Robert and Philip Ng, who had a combined net worth of $9.4 billion.
Sy and John Gokongwei Jr, the country’s second richest person with a net worth of $5.5 billion, are the only Filipino rich-listers who made it to the upper half of the ASEAN rich list. All the others, including Enrique Razon, the country’s third richest person, and Lucio Tan, the fourth, ended up in the lower half of the regional listing.
In terms of the sources of wealth of the ASEAN 50 richest people, the real estate industry dominated the list, with at least 27 of the wealthiest tycoons doing big business in property development. Second in the tally is financial services industry, with at least 14 billionaires running banks, insurance firms and/or investment houses.
Related story: Who are the Wealthiest Tycoons in the ASEAN Region?
Completing the top five sectors are the food and beverage industry, with at least 12 tycoons making billions from manufacturing and/or distributing food and drinks; the leisure and hospitality industry, with around 12 rich listers operating hotels, resorts and casinos; and the retail industry, with least 10 Southeast Asian billionaires.
The average age of the region’s richest businessmen is 74, with the youngest being 35-year-old Eduardo Saverin from Singapore and the eldest being 94-year-olds Robert Kuok from Malaysia and Eka Tjipta Widjaja from Indonesia. As well, 64 percent of the 50 wealthiest tycoons are self-made or built their own businesses from the ground up. The remaining 36 percent largely inherited their fortune.
Lorenzo Kyle Subido is a staff writer of Entrepreneur PH