This story appears in the November 2017 issue of Forbes Asia. Subscribe
This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Asia’s 50 Richest Families 2017. See the full list here.
Asia’s wealthiest business dynasties remain successful by producing new generations that push the company in often surprising directions. But some scions have such an entrepreneurial bent that they’re compelled to chart their own path away from the family firm, at least when they’re young.
One example is 29-year-old Howard Sy, a grandson of Henry Sy, the founding patriarch of the Philippines’ richest family. A former investment analyst at Macquarie, Sy started a 24-hour self-service storage company called StorageMart a year ago, anticipating that the country’s condominium boom would create a demand for storehouses. With an initial investment of about a half a million dollars, it now operates two facilities in Metro Manila and boasts 100 customers. “It cost me my entire personal life savings … plus three and a half years of my analyst salary,” he told Forbes Asia.
Walter Bollozos/Philippine Star Lifestyle
The Sy family ranks No. 9 on our third annual ranking of Asia’s wealthiest business families, with a fortune of $20.1 billion, up 57% in 12 months.
Indeed, 43 clans from the 2016 list added to their net worth from a year ago. A key reason: Asia’s stock markets jumped 25% overall for the year ended October 31, according to the MSCI AC Asia Index. Collectively, the 50 families on our list are worth a record $699 billion, up by nearly $200 billion from last year.
Samsung’s Lee family lose No. 1 spot
No family highlights this surge better than the Ambanis of India, this year’s biggest gainer in dollar and percentage terms. Their net worth rose by $19 billion, to $44.8 billion, superseding the Lees of the Samsung empire to claim the No. 1 spot. That perch was always occupied by the South Korean family, which still saw its wealth swell by $11.2 billion. Shares in Mukesh Ambani’s conglomerate Reliance Industries soared, due to improved refining margins and the demand produced by its telecom arm, Reliance Jio, which notched up 140 million subscribers since it launched in 2016.
Related story: How The Lees Made South Korea The ‘Republic Of Samsung’
For the third time India enjoys the biggest presence in the ranking, with 18 families. Hong Kong follows with nine this time. Among the six clans making their debut are the Chey family (No. 39) of South Korea’s SK Group, widely known for its wireless service provider, SK Telecom. The other newcomers are the Yoovidhyas of Thailand (No. 22), the Sehgals (No. 41) and Wadias (No. 42) of India, and the Lees (No. 30) and Tungs of Hong Kong (No. 49).
The ticket to entry this year was $5 billion, some $1.6 billion more than in 2016. Some families couldn’t keep pace: The Aboitiz clan of the Philippines and the Koos of Taiwan both fell short by small margins.
The full list
Family Net Worth Country 1 Ambani $44.8 billion India 2 Lee (Byung-Chull) $40.8 billion South Korea 3 Kwok $40.4 billion Hong Kong 4 Chearavanont $36.6 billion Thailand 5 Hartono $32 billion Indonesia 6 Lee (Shau Kee) $29 billion Hong Kong 7 Kwek / Quek $23.3 billion Malaysia 8 Cheng Family $22.5 billion Hong Kong 9 Sy $20.1 billion Philippines 10 Chirathivat family $19.3 billion Thailand 11 Premji $19.2 billion India 12 Hinduja $18.8 billion India 13 Tsai (Wan-Tsai & Wan-Lin) $17.7 billion Taiwan 14 Mittal $17.2 billion India 15 Kuok $16.6 billion Singapore 16 Mistry $16.1 billion India 17 Chung $14.8 billion South Korea 18 Saji $14.2 billion Japan 19 Birla $14.1 billion India 20 Godrej $14 billion India 21 Pao $13.4 billion Hong Kong 22 Yoovidhya family $13.1 billion Thailand 23 Kadoorie $11 billion Hong Kong 24 Widjaja $10.4 billion Indonesia 25 Ng $9.7 billion Singapore 26 Bajaj $9.3 billion India 27 Salim $8.8 billion Indonesia 28 Koo Family (In-Hwoi) $8.7 billion South Korea 29 Lohia $8.68 billion Indonesia 30 Lee $8.4 billion Hong Kong 31 Law $7.8 billion Hong Kong 32 Jindal $7.68 billion India 33 Mori $7.6 billion Japan 34 Tsai (Eng-Meng) $7.1 billion Taiwan 35 Burman $7.05 billion India 36 Lal $7 billion India 37 Bangur $6.7 billion India 38 Khoo $6.4 billion Singapore 39 Chey $6.3 billion South Korea 40 Wee $6.25 billion Singapore 41 Sehgal $6.15 billion India 42 Wadia $6.14 billion India 43 Zobel $6.13 billion Philippines 44 Singh $6.1 billion India 45 Patel $6 billion India 46 Kwee $5.5 billion Singapore 47 Piramal $5.38 billion India 48 Munjal $5.37 billion India 49 Tung $5.2 billion Hong Kong 50 Lo $5 billion Hong Kong
The list of Asia’s 50 Richest Families is a snapshot of wealth using stock prices and currency exchange rates from the close of markets on November 3, 2017. Private companies were valued by using financial ratios and other comparisons with similar publicly traded companies. To qualify, a family’s wealth must be rooted in Asia and participation in building that fortune has to extend at least three generations.
Nearly half of the richest families in Asia are in China, yet none of 50 we ranked this year are based in the mainland, where conglomerates are young, run by first and second generations who were able to muster billions of dollars in wealth in an open economy.
Additional reporting: Yinan Che, Shu-Ching Jean Chen, Muhammad Cohen, Russell Flannery, Forbes Indonesia, Jane Ho, Naazneen Karmali, Luisa Kroll, Anis Muslimin and Anuradha Raghunathan.
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