With global trade tensions showing no signs of abating, Singapore’s economy has flatlined. A recent government forecast projects virtually no growth for the island-nation in 2019, citing potential risks such as a deepening slowdown in China, uncertainties in Hong Kong and further afield, the fallout from a no-deal Brexit. Despite these looming headwinds and a stock market that declined 3.5% since we last measured fortunes in July 2018, the collective wealth of the top 50 richest was up more than 12% to $130 billion.
A good part of that boost is due to the debut of hot-pot billionaire Zhang Yong, founder of Hong Kong-listed Haidilao International. A naturalized Singapore citizen and resident, Zhang, who was featured previously among China’s richest, is the new number one this year with a net worth of $13.8 billion. His company is also increasingly global in its expansion.
Zhang replaces real estate siblings Robert and Philip Ng, who had occupied the top spot every year this decade; they are now at No. 2 with $12.1 billion. The biggest dollar gainer this year is another property tycoon, Kwek Leng Beng, chairman of the Hong Leong Group. Kwek added $1.2 billion to his wealth partly on the back of an overseas expansion of flagship City Developments, which acquired two London office properties for $690 million in 2018. Paint tycoon Goh Cheng Liang also got a billion-dollar boost, thanks partly to new information about his holdings.
More than half of the returnees to the list saw their wealth decline, such as Facebook billionaire and Singapore resident Eduardo Saverin, who is down by $1.2 billion. While he retains a minority stake, Saverin plays no role in the social media giant, which has been battling investor concerns about user privacy issues. Shipping tycoon Chang Yun Chung suffered a 27% erosion in his wealth amid a sluggish shipping sector in the trade-dependent country. Chang, now age 101, is the world’s oldest billionaire.
The cutoff to make the top 50 increased marginally this year to $560 million. There were three dropoffs, including Ching Chiat Kwong, the former cop turned developer, who came to be known as the king of shoebox apartments. The debt-fueled expansion of his Oxley Holdings made investors wary, causing its shares to dip.
Additional reporting by Pamela Ambler, Wayne Arnold, Megha Bahree, Jonathan Burgos, Shu-Ching Jean Chen, Russell Flannery, Sean Kilachand, Anis Muslimin, Suzanne Nam, Anuradha Raghunathan, Sheela Sarvananda and Jessica Tan.
The list was compiled using shareholding and financial information obtained from the families and individuals, stock exchanges, analysts and other sources. Unlike our billionaire rankings, this list includes family fortunes, including those shared among extended families such as that of Kwek Leng Beng and his cousins. Net worths are based on stock prices and exchange rates as of the close of markets on August 13, 2019. Private companies were valued based on similar companies that are publicly traded.