Villar leads other Philippine billionaires on Forbes’ richest list

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Manuel B. Villar, Jr.

REAL ESTATE tycoon Manuel B. Villar, Jr. is now the country’s richest man, rising past other Filipinos on Forbes Magazine’s annual list of world billionaires released on Tuesday.

Filipinos on Forbes’ 2019 list of world’s richest people

Mr. Villar, also a former legislator, placed 317th globally on Forbes Magazine’s 2019 List of the World’s Richest People, with a net worth of $5.5 billion.

He took the place on that list of the late SM Investments Corp. (SMIC) Founder Henry Sy, Sr., who died at the age of 94 on Jan. 19. Mr. Sy was the Philippines’ richest man for 11 consecutive years, as per Forbes’ list, with his wealth estimated at $19 billion when he passed away.

Forbes calculates people’s wealth based on stock prices and exchange rates from Feb. 8, covering people worth at least $1 billion.

Mr. Villar is chairman of three listed companies, namely: real estate developer Vista Land & Lifescapes, Inc.; mall operator Starmalls, Inc. and death-care service provider Golden Bria Holdings, Inc.

Golden Bria has been among the key drivers of Mr. Villar’s wealth in the past two years, as shares in the company have risen by 99.66% to P352 each on Feb. 8 from P176.30 the past year.

“Villar’s rise to the top of the Forbes’ list wasn’t all that unexpected since he had already secured the second spot as early as 2017, just behind the late taipan Henry Sy,” Regina Capital Development Corp. Investment Analyst Rens V. Cruz II said in a mobile phone message when sought for comment.

“And this is not without basis, as Villar was able to flip his mid-sized memorial service firm into a P242-billion consolidated real estate company within a year,” Mr. Cruz explained, referring to Golden Bria.

Golden Bria’s market capitalization stood at P237.55 billion at the end of Wednesday’s trading session, with shares priced at P377 each.

JG Summit Holdings, Inc. founder John L. Gokongwei, Jr followed Mr. Villar on the list of Filipino billionaires, with a net worth of $5.1 billion, making him the 343rd richest in the world.

Mr. Gokongwei’s interests span aviation through Cebu Air, Inc.; food and beverage through Universal Robina Corp.; property through Robinsons Land Corp. and retail through Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc., among others.

Gaming tycoon Enrique K. Razon, Jr ranked third locally, while landing in the 379th spot on the global list. His net worth is estimated at $4.8 billion.

Lucio C. Tan, Sr. of LT Group, Inc., with interests in banking, tobacco, spirits, and property development placed fourth in the Philippines and 436th globally with a $4.4-billion net worth.

Also on the list were Jollibee Foods Corp. founder Tony Tan Caktiong and family, with a net worth of $3.9 billion (529th globally); San Miguel Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang, with a net worth of $2.9 billion (775th) and Alliance Global Group, Inc. Chairman Andrew L. Tan with a net worth of $2.7 billion (838th).

All six of Mr. Sy’s children made it to the list, with Hans Sy and Herbert Sy tied at the 962nd spot with a net worth of $2.4 billion. Both serve as advisors to SMIC, whose core interests include property, banking and retail, and are directors of SMIC property arm SM Prime Holdings, Inc.

SMIC Executive Director Harley T. Sy; SMIC Co-Vice Chairman and SM Prime Holdings, Inc. Chairman Henry T. Sy, Jr. and BDO Unibank, Inc. Chairman Teresita Sy-Coson shared the 1057th spot, each with a net worth of about $2.2 billion.

SMIC adviser Elizabeth Sy came in 1227th with a $1.9-billion net worth.

Other Filipino billionaires on the list were: San Miguel Chairman Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr. and Prudential Guarantee & Assurance Chairman Robert G. Coyiuto, Jr., who were tied at 1605th spot with $1.4 billion each; Century Pacific Foods, Inc. Founder Ricardo S. Po, Sr and family at 1818th with $1.2 billion and Alphaland Corp. Chairman Roberto V. Ongpin at the 1941st spot with $1.1 billion.

The global list showed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest with $131 billion, followed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates with $96.5 billion and Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway with $82.5 billion. — Arra B. Francia