The global market turbulence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has trimmed the tribe of people on the planet with fortune reaching least $1 billion, but 15 of them – led by the “brown taipan” Manuel Villar – are left standing in the Philippines in this challenging year.
Forbes Magazine, which has been listing billionaires for the last 34 years, counted 2,095 billionaires out of 7.8 billion people on Earth this 2020. This is 58 fewer than its listing last year and 226 less than in early March, before various governments locked down key cities to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Philippines, the roster of billionaires is led for the second straight year by Villar, with an estimated net worth of $5.7 billion that made him 298th richest person on the planet. Despite the current volatility, Villar’s fortune inched up from last year’s $5.5 billion, following the stock market debut of retail arm AllHome Corp.
Much of Villar’s fortune comes from the buoyant market capitalization of mass housing developer Golden Bria Holdings Inc., a former memorial park developer which diversified to business that also caters to the living. Golden Bria is currently valued by the stock market at around P244 billion compared to Vista Land & Lifescape’s P52.3 billion and AllHome’s P17.4 billion market capitalization.
The son of a government employee and a fish vendor, Villar made a fortune out of property development and eventually entered politics, becoming Speaker of the House and Senate president at some point. After losing his presidential bid in 2010, he focused on growing his business empire.
All of the six children of the late tycoon Henry Sy Sr. – who used to dominate the list – were included in the list. After his demise in early 2019, Forbes started counting the wealth of his children individually. Collectively, the wealth of the Sy siblings is estimated at $12.4 billion, broken down as follows: Hans ($2.3 billion); Herbert ($2.2 billion); Henry Jr. ($2. billion); Harley ($2.1 billion); Teresita Sy ($2 billion); and, Elizabeth ($1.8 billion).
The Sys own the three most valuable companies in the local stock market – property giant SM Prime Holdings, conglomerate SM Investments and banking giant BDO Unibank- among over 200 other entities, including privately-held ones.
Next to Villar, the second richest in the Philippines is port terminal operator and integrated gaming tycoon Enrique Razon Jr., with an estimated fortune of $3.2 billion. Razon leads port terminal operator, International Container Terminal Services Inc., one of the few local firms with the most global footprint. He also leads integrated gaming operator Bloomberry Resorts Corp., developer and operator of Solaire Resort & Casino. He is also into infrastructure development and recently gained majority voting rights in beleaguered water concessionaire Manila Water Co.
After siblings Hans, Henry, Harley and Teresita Sy, tobacco magnate Lucio Tan ranked eighth richest with an estimated fortune of $1.9 billion, while property tycoon Andrew Tan, founder of Megaworld group, bagged ninth place in the local list with an estimated fortune of $1.8 billion.
Alphaland Corp. chief Robert Ongpin ranked 11th locally with an estimated fortune of $1.8 billion, followed by Tony Tan Caktiong, founder of fast-good giant Jollibee Foods Corp., who had an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion.
Rounding up the list are: San Miguel Corp. president and Eagle Cement chair Ramon S. Ang, with an estimated fortune of $1.5 billion, followed by insurance and car dealership magnate Robert Coyiuto Jr. and San Miguel chair Eduardo Cojuangco, with estimated net worth of $1.4 billion and $1.1 billion, respectively.
Of the billionaires who remained on Forbes’ list this 2020, 51 percent are poorer than they were last year. The world’s billionaires are worth $8 trillion, down $700 billion from 2019.
“The world’s richest are not immune to the devastating impact of the coronavirus,” said Kerry Dolan, assistant managing editor of Wealth at Forbes. “The drop in the number of billionaires this year reflects the economic impact the pandemic is already having.”
In the Philippines, two tycoons were stricken off the list, including Century Pacific founder Ricardo Po, whose family also leads Shakey’s Asia Pizza Ventures. The other one is JG Holdings founder John Gokongwei Jr., who died in November last year. In last year’s Forbes list, Gokongwei was the second richest in the country with an estimated net worth then of $5.1 billion, which since then passed on to his heirs.
Globally, centi-billionaire Jeff Bezos, CEO of e-commerce giant Amazon, maintained the top spot on this year’s ranking, for the third consecutive year, despite his net worth plunging by $18 billion due to asset decline arising from a recent divorce. He is now valued at $113 billion.
Bill Gates remained in the No. 2 position with a fortune of $98 billion, up $1.5 billion from last year.
Bernard Arnault of luxury consumer house LVMH rose in this year’s ranking and debuted in the top three, as the third-wealthiest person in the world, after Warren Buffett’s fortune fell by $15 billion to $67.5 billion.
Rounding out the top five is Larry Ellison, founder, chairman and Chief Technology Officer of Oracle Corp. While the software executive moves up on the ranking, his fortune went down by $3.5 billion this year to $59 billion.
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