By Krista A. M. Montealegre
HENRY SY, Sr. of the SM Group has remained the country’s wealthiest man on the Forbes Philippines’ 50 Richest List for the tenth straight year, with the economic policy of President Rodrigo R. Duterte playing part in dictating the fortunes of the country’s business magnates.
Eighteen Filipino billionaires led by Mr. Sy made it to the elite club this year, down from 21 in 2016, as half of the country’s top 50 tycoons saw their net worths take a hit because of the flat performance of the benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange index and the weakness of the peso against the US dollar, Forbes said in a statement.
Mr. Sy, who owns a 54% stake in SM Investments Corp., enjoyed the biggest gain in dollar terms, with his net worth surging to $18 billion from $13.7 billion last year.
The Sy family recently handed over the management of the conglomerate, which has interests in consumer-centric sectors like property, banking and retail, to long-time Chief Financial Officer Jose T. Sio.
JG Summit Holdings, Inc. Chairman Emeritus John L. Gokongwei, Jr. kept the No. 2 spot, even as his wealth declined to $5.5 billion from $6.8 billion. Mr. Gokongwei has built an empire spanning airline, food, real estate, chemicals, power and telecommunications.
International Container Terminal Services, Inc. Chairman Enrique K. Razon, Jr. moved up to the third spot after his net worth improved to $4.3 billion from $3.5 billion last year when he was eighth on the list. Mr. Razon’s gaming business under Bloomberry Resorts Corp. is raking in record profits this year, riding a boom in Chinese tourist arrivals as Mr. Duterte sought warmer ties with Beijing.
Seven of the 10 biggest dollar gainers, Forbes said, have notable interests in construction and property development, thanks to the government’s ambitious infrastructure drive.
DMCI Holdings, Inc. Chairman David M. Consunji jumped to sixth place with a net worth of $3.68 billion, up from $3.1 billion last year when he held the ninth spot, while San Miguel Corp. Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang, who also owns Eagle Cement Corp., took the 10th spot after doubling his net worth to $2.3 billion from $1.21 billion.
The co-founders of Megawide Construction Corp. — Michael C. Cosiquien (29th, $385 million) and Edgar B. Saavedra (31st, $375 million) — grew their net worth by nearly half on the back of the 30% rise in the shares of their company.
There were also some tycoons on the losing end of Mr. Duterte’s policies.
LT Group Chairman Lucio C. Tan maintained the fourth spot even after his net worth slumped to $4.2 billion from $4.9 billion, with his tobacco business under pressure from a nationwide smoking ban.
Former ambassador Alfredo M. Yao suffered a 26% drop in his net worth to $600 million to secure the 25th spot. A proposed tax on sweetened beverages is casting a dark cloud over the prospects of his soft drinks business under Macay Holdings, Inc.
Rounding up the top 10 and their respective net worths were: Ayala Corp. founder Jaime Zobel de Ayala (No. 5, $3.7 billion from $4.1 billion); GT Capital Holdings, Inc. Chairman Emeritus George S.K. Ty (No. 7, $3.6 billion from $4.6 billion); Jollibee Foods Corp. founder Tony Tan Caktiong (No. 8, $3.4 billion from $4.3 billion); Alliance Global Group, Inc. Chairman Andrew L. Tan (No. 9, $2.5 billion from $3 billion).
Also in the billionaire’s club were Lucio and Susan Co of Puregold Price Club, Inc. (11th, $1.8 billion); Vista Land & Lifescapes, Inc. founder Manuel B. Villar, Jr. (12th, $1.65 billion); Iñigo and Mercedes Zobel, (13th, $1.6 billion); Robert G. Coyuito, Jr. of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines and PGA Automobile, Inc. (14th, $1.5 billion) and Mercedes T. Gotianun (15th, $1.4 billion).
Completing the top 20 are former Trade minister Roberto V. Ongpin (16th, $1.15 billion); SMC Chairman Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr. (17th, $1.1 billion); D&L Industries, Inc. Chairman Emeritus Dean L. Lao, Sr. (18th, $1 billion); Century Pacific Food, Inc. Chairman Emeritus Ricardo S. Po, Sr. (19th, $980 million) and Monde Nissan Corp. President Betty Ang (20th, $880 million).
New on the list is STI Education Systems Holdings, Inc. Chairman Eusebio H. Tanco at 45th place with a fortune of $150 million after shares in his company more than doubled over the past year due to an expanding demand for courses in fields of information and communication technology, and business management.