RICH IN SINGAPORE

RICH IN SINGAPORE

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “Singapore’s richest people have a collective net worth of US$59.4bil (RM184bil), up from $54.4bil (RM168.8bil) last year. It now has 16 billionaires compared to 13 the previous year, Forbes reported. Ten of every 100,000 households in Singapore are now classified as “ultra-high-net-worth” households, with each having more than US$100mil (RM310mil) in private financial wealth. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, Malaysia, August 25, 2012]

The Boston Consulting Group said that 15.5 percent of Singapore households have at least $1 million in liquid assets, the highest percentage in the world. Tsyoshi Nojima wrote in the Asahi Shimbun, “The political and business leaders of Singapore are a small, elite cadre culled from the a cuthroat academic race that begins as early as elementary school. Once anointed, they are entrusted with maintaining the country’s high rate of economic growth and foreign investment.”

Suzy Nam of Forbes wrote: “Singaporean wealth may fluctuate with the world’s economy but the island-state’s emergence as an all-purpose crossroads is having more everyday impact on its richest. Singapore’s 40 richest show a collective net worth of $59.4 billion, up from last year’s $54.4 billion. The country has 16 billionaires, 3 more than last year. Among them is Eduardo Saverin, Facebook cofounder and relocated former American, worth $2.2 billion. [Source: Forbes, Suzy Nam, July 25, 2012]

Budget hotel magnate Koh Wee Meng joins the billionaire ranks after shares of his Fragrance Group surged. Another discount hospitality figure, Choo Chong Ngen, is one of 8 newcomers to the list. Indian telecom magnate Bhupendra Kumar Modi, who took Singapore citizenship in January, debuts at $755 million.

Five of the newcomers made marks in property, including brothers Raj Kumar and Asok Kumar Hiranandani (read about Raj Kumar and son, Kishin RK here), who split their operation so are listed separately. Tang Wee Kit, who returns to the list after several years, is best known for his family’s department store Tangs on Orchard Road. Of the 30 who returned from 2011, 14 saw their fortunes fall, many on poor performance at the SGX stock exchange, which is down 3 percent. One big loser was Richard Chandler whose group of Singapore-based funds lost $1.57 billion last year; he was poorer by $1.1 billion. Eight from last year dropped off including luxury property developer Simon Cheong; shares of his SC Global fell 40 percent.

"I looked at all the cities in the world and decided to move to Singapore," American investor Jim Rogers, who co-founded the Quantum Fund with George Soros in 1970, told Reuters.

Europe's Old Wealth Finds Home in Singapore

John O'Callaghan and Charmian Kok of Reuters wrote: “In the 1470s, the prominent Spinola family of Genoa had an apprentice business agent in Barcelona named Christopher Columbus helping to handle their shipments, preparing the young sailor for his later voyages of discovery to the New World. These days, that Italian clan and other ultra-affluent families are moving assets to Singapore by setting up family offices in a city-state often touted as the Switzerland of Asia. Campden Wealth, which provides research and data on family offices, says up to 10 European family offices have moved to Singapore since the financial crisis in 2008, bringing $5-$10 billion worth of assets with them. [Source: John O'Callaghan and Charmian Kok, Reuters, April 17, 2012 +++]

“Singapore, a global banking and investment centre in the heart of Southeast Asia, is an attractive base for its efficient registration process, relatively benign regulations, smooth movement of money, financial infrastructure and low tax rates. Clean and safe, it also offers high-end shopping, fine dining, casinos, luxury hotels, golf courses and marinas filled with super-yachts to help the wealthy spend and unwind. Asia's prospects are alluring as economies in Europe and the United States look weak. After the crisis, regulatory pressures in the West and a crackdown on offshore centers have hastened the pace of family offices moving to Singapore and Hong Kong. "The families want to be where the action is," said Munish Dhall, a UBS executive director and head of ultra-high net worth offering and client development. "They want a piece of the economic pie." +++

“The Spinolas, whose ancestors include crusaders during the Middle Ages, cardinals of the Holy Roman Empire and influential figures in the politics, culture and prosperity of Genoa, are one of those families. But they are doing things their own way. Last year, representatives of the family began setting up an office in Singapore to manage their investments in the region, rather than using their Geneva-based operation Parly Company SA. +++

“It is still early days for Parly Singapore as it applies for licenses and tests its bespoke portfolio management tools. The plan is to hire senior investment managers from top banks over the next year, with the 10-15 members of the team working under an advisory fee model rather than on commission. "We are a family company and the family is not involved in the business. We're basically shareholders," said Spinola, who sits on a management committee with several relatives and now has permanent resident status in Singapore. By keeping family and investment matters separate and allowing Parly managers to make decisions, he said, "that is a way of differentiating risk." +++

“The Spinolas are clubbing together with two other family offices to cut costs and leverage on efficiencies. Parly officials declined to identify the partners, other than to say they are "household names" in Europe - one is an English entrepreneur who has donated much of his money to charity and the other is a Swiss-based family. Spinola would not discuss the amount of investment in Parly Singapore and neither would its managing director, Roxanne Davies. But she did give a clue. "A family office with such a strategy can't really exist - it is not economically feasible - without half a billion," Davies said. +++

Why Singapore is an Attractive Destination of Old European Money

John O'Callaghan and Charmian Kok of Reuters wrote: “The goal for the Spinolas and other family offices is simple: control their wealth, maximize returns and minimize fees charged by commission-hungry money managers. Concerns about the health of big banks and dismay at their hard-sell tactics that pushed products of dubious merit onto high net worth clients - such as mortgage-backed securities that turned toxic - are other factors. "Singapore is tightening offshore rules but it will continue to be a very attractive place for family and investment offices," said David Bain, Campden Wealth's head of research. "No government in the world is so committed to attracting the money of the ultra-high net worth." [Source: John O'Callaghan and Charmian Kok, Reuters, April 17, 2012 +++]

“Wealthy families from Europe, more so than Americans, are looking to set up shop in Asia because of the banking situation in Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, said Donald Riegger, a Singapore-based expert on family offices at Deloitte & Touche LLP, a global accounting and advisory practice. "It's picking up steam," said Riegger, adding Singapore is on the map as a financial centre and as more family wealth shifts to Asia in an overhaul of portfolios. "I'm not really getting much of a sense that they're fleeing something to come here ... For a U.S. person, they're not going to avoid that (taxes) but if you're a European looking for a better tax structure, Singapore could work well." +++

“Spinola, who worked at Italian drinks group Martini & Rossi and managed agricultural firms in Argentina before setting up Parly in Geneva in 1993, is no stranger to investing or to Asia. Now he and his family want a more direct link to how their money is managed in the region, although success is not certain given the volatility of markets and the variety of political, investment and regulatory risks in many Asian countries. "We are trying to move away from hot money, high-frequency trading and things that have price discovery that we just cannot control," Davies said. "If we are able to target single digit returns of 6-7 percent annualized in today's market, we would think of ourselves as very lucky." +++

“Pending approval from the authorities, she said, Parly will move the "centralized thinking process" from Geneva to Singapore, which has been "very open to new ways of wealth management and financial technology that surrounds it". Parly's portfolio is more heavily weighted towards equities, with investments mainly in energy, commodities, healthcare and biotechnology stocks. It also invests in mezzanine finance, bridge financing and types of structured credits. In Asia, Davies said Parly is interested in opportunities in the consumer sector, Japanese innovations and venture capital, especially in technology firms. If the model works, Parly Singapore will be open to investing on behalf of other wealthy families. +++

“Spinola, whose passions are classical music and animal protection, still has ties to Europe. He owns one-fifth of Tassarolo Castle, built around a Roman tower and nestled among vineyards and fields north of Genoa. One of the buildings is where the Spinolas minted money until the 17th century. But Spinola has long felt the pull of Asia. Two decades ago, he was "very tempted" to set up a family office in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing or Tokyo but ended up picking Geneva because he felt it was a safer bet at the time. "In 1994, the choice (in Asia) was much wider," he said. "Now, the options are basically down to two or three - Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore." So what swung his decision in favor of Singapore? "I have such good friends there," he said. "It really gives me a higher sense of safety. It all comes down to the people you know." +++

Singapore's Rich

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, In 2011, the number of millionaires (in US dollars) increased by 14 percent, one of the world’s fastest growth rates. In the previous year – from 2009 to 2010 – it went up by a record one-third. Their wealth does not include the value of their properties or other fixed assets. If it does, Singaporeans would be even richer. The question is: how many of the new rich are foreigners who took up permanent residency here? If the number is high, it could distort the picture a little. Over the past five years, the number of rich mainland Chinese, Indians and Indonesians who took up PR here has risen, pushing up the price of properties. Two of Facebook billionaire co-founders, Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, have made Singapore their home. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, June 9, 2012]

In 2007, Sara Webb of Reuters wrote: “The focus on the rich has even spawned a new caste system -- of "high net worth individuals", or those with a mere million in financial assets, and the highly desirable "ultra-high net worth" who have millions or billions of dollars to their name. Take Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, Thailand's richest man, according to Forbes, who listed his whisky and beer firm Thai Beverage in Singapore last year. He snapped up not just one, but 47 out of 48 flats in a new development for S$205 million, and four entire floors in another project for S$135 million, Business Times reported this month. [Source: Sara Webb, Reuters, April 26, 2007 ==]

“Now thanks to all the wealthy Chinese, Indonesians, Indians and Thais who turn to Singapore -- not to mention the Europeans who prefer to park their funds offshore -- there aren't enough private bankers to handle all this money. Whole teams of "wealth managers" are hopping from one bank to another, lured by promises of ever-higher salaries and payouts. "There's a shortage of really high quality bankers, so there's poaching and that pushes salaries up," said Chris Claridge, who runs a head-hunting firm. "Most players are getting 20-30 percent more. One guy, an investment banker, ended up with 75 percent more because two banks were bidding for him. It was like ebay." ==

“Bankers aren't the only ones getting a big pay rise. Singapore's ministers, already among the world's highest-paid, just got a 60 percent pay hike, lifting their salaries from S$1.2 million to S$1.9 million (US$1.26 million) on average. The Prime Minister's pay jumped to S$3.5 million ($2.3 million) -- more than five times the US president's $400,000 salary -- while his deputies will each get S$2.45 million. Two former prime ministers who retain cabinet posts will be paid more than S$3 million. Ministers and civil servants are benchmarked against the best-paid individuals in professions such as banking, an area the government is encouraging as part of an economic overhaul.” ==

Lifestyles of Singapore's Rich

In 2007, Sara Webb of Reuters wrote: “Celebrity-chef dinners, huge pay hikes, and hot properties with a garage for the Ferrari and a berth for the yacht...some people in Singapore are living it up. The world's top banks have set up in the city-state, bringing plenty of rich clients in their wake. Now, thanks to a strong economy, a private banking boom, and the prospect of two glitzy casinos opening soon, the big spenders are out in force. Singapore's immaculately groomed private bankers are having a field day, thanks to the government's policy of creating a one-stop banking centre-cum-playground for the affluent. [Source: Sara Webb, Reuters, April 26, 2007 ==]

“Given the wealth in the financial sector, it's no surprise people are splashing out on expensive meals, cars, and homes. Indonesian tycoon Oei Hong Leong hosted a S$50,000 charity banquet, flying in celebrity chefs Tetsuya Wakuda and Justin Quek for a 16-course meal that included poached foie gras and steamed tofu, as well as rare vintage wines, the Business Times reported. Local media this month profiled a local businessman whose fleet of 20 cars includes Bentleys, a Lamborghini, a Ferrari and a Jaguar, and said that one Singaporean had paid S$3 million for a new Pagani Zonda F, a record for a sports car in the country. ==

“Prices for new apartments in prime districts surged 25 percent in 2006, the strongest recovery in years, while landlords are demanding rent increases of 50-60 percent. "The rental market has gone through the roof," said property agent Bee Bee Tan, with a central flat that rented for S$3600 now commanding S$6000 a month, an increase of 67 percent. As for the millionaires, they can take their pick of projects offering butler services or a doorstep berth for that gin palace. "It's Monaco in the tropics," said consultant Scott. ==

Tales of the exploits of the rich are common place. included the following: Ones from 2011 and 2012 according to Seah Chiang Nee include: 1) Singapore’s (resale) public flats are worth more than some expensive villas and islands in Portugal, Greece and Spain, as well as luxurious properties in the United States, reported Business Times. 2) Rising property prices – nearly 7000 “shoe box” condos of 300 sq ft to 500 sq ft have been built. A 463 sq ft condo was sold for S$702,000 (RM1.7mil). 3) For sale: a bottle of special edition whisky in Singapore for S$250,000 (RM620,165). 4) Singapore girl from a prominent family splurging S$200,000 (RM496,252) on a photo shoot.. 5) Launch of the Singapore’s most expensive car, priced at S$3.6mil (RM9mil). 6) A 23,920 sq ft bungalow at the prestigious Nassim Road was sold for a record S$47.8mil (RM118.6mil). [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, June 9, 2012]

Joyce Hooi of the Business Times wrote: “If Singapore had been a person, it would have stood above the unwashed tableau of Occupy Wall Street, watching from its penthouse and laughing into its Cognac.” Every single day, she added, 25 people had bought a Mercedes-Benz or a BMW, and a Ferrari every four days over the past 11 months. [Ibid]

A Singaporean billionaire, Peter Lim, has just made a US$507mil (RM1.56bil) bid to buy England’s Liverpool football team. And two Singaporeans displayed their wealth less gloriously at the casino tables. One, a company managing director of a seafood business, lost S$26mil (RM61.95mil) in just three days, while the second, who was in the latest Forbes list of Singapore’s 40 richest people, dropped S$100mil (RM238.27mil). Easy come, easy go! Cashing in on it, Citibank last week launched an exclusive Ultima credit card for the super rich in Singapore where members must have S$5mil (RM11.9mil) and admitted only by invitation.

Singapore Family Books $1 Million Virgin Space Flight

In November 2011, a Singaporean businessman, his wife and two children have paid $1 million to become the first Asian family to fly together on space-tourism airline Virgin Galactic, the company announced Monday. "I had lunch yesterday with a guy who got in touch with us in Singapore, and over lunch he signed his contract for not just a seat, but for a whole flight," Virgin Galactic commercial director Stephen Attenborough said. [Source: Philip Lim, AFP, November 14, 2011 */*]

“Speaking at an international media and marketing conference in Singapore, Attenborough said the customer handed over a cheque for $1 million and asked to remain anonymous because "apparently he hasn't told his wife yet." "So he is going to become, or he and his family will become, the first family from Asia to become astronauts together," Attenborough said. */*

“The US-based firm, part of British tycoon Richard Branson's Virgin conglomerate, has sold bookings since 2005 at $200,000 per seat even though it has not yet set a firm timetable for space flights to be launched from New Mexico. Attenborough told AFP in an interview that the Singaporean businessman chartered one exclusive flight for his family on the six-seat aircraft SpaceShipTwo. */*

“The SpaceshipTwo, with two pilots, is designed to be launched by a transport plane called White KnightTwo and will be guided by a rocket motor before gliding back to Earth. "They should be flying in the first year of commercial operations. They'll be within the first thousand human beings to have ever gone to space, or they should be," Attenborough said. */*

“He said nine out of nearly 500 tickets sold worldwide had been bought by customers in Singapore, which has one of Asia's highest concentrations of millionaires. Families from other countries such as Canada, the United States and Britain have also bought tickets, Attenborough said. */*

Singapore: ‘Expat Wealth Hotspot’

In October 2012, Leah Hyslop wrote in the Telegraph, “Singapore is home to the world's largest proportion of wealthy expats, survey finds. A survey of over 5000 expats has found that Singapore is home to the largest proportion of wealthy expats. As part of its annual ‘Expat Explorer’ survey, HSBC Expat ranked nearly 100 countries on the financial health of foreigners living there, considering such factors as the average expat's salary, disposable income and ability to buy luxuries. Singapore topped the table, while four other Asian locations Thailand, China, Hong Kong and Vietnam also appeared in the top 10. [Source: By Leah Hyslop, Telegraph, October 12, 2012]

In Singapore, more than half (54 percent) of surveyed expats said they earned more than US$200,000 (£125,000, S$247,846) a year, compared with a global survey average of just seven percent. The majority of expats in Asia said they had experienced an increase in disposable income since relocating, particularly in Singapore (80 percent), Hong Kong (79 percent) and Malaysia (72 percent). HSBC said that the high ranking of Singapore and Vietnam in this year's survey suggested that south-east Asia in particular is coming to the fore as a region where expats can boost their earnings potential.

Foreign Super-Rich in Singapore

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “A luxurious 7072 sq ft penthouse at a prime district has just changed hands for S$30mil (RM71.46mil) in one of the most expensive deals on a per square foot basis. The buyer was a permanent resident from Hong Kong and the seller an Indian tycoon who had bought it in 2006 for S$17.3mil (RM41.21mil). The cost of the triplex with five bedrooms and an 11m swimming pool worked out to S$4242 per sq ft, a record in land-scarce Singapore. Last June, an unknown Chinese national snapped up a bungalow on Sentosa Island for S$36mil (RM85.77mil), the highest paid for a residence here. The PR holder from China had considered the price a bargain, according to the agent who handled the sale. These are among a rising number of wealthy foreigners – especially Chinese, Indians and Indonesians – who have made this city their family residence while doing business outside. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, October 16, 2010 ^^]

“An example of the foreign presence can be gauged at Sentosa Cove, one of Singapore’s most posh and expensive waterfront projects. More than 3000 people now live there. They have come from 22 countries, the top five nationalities being Singaporeans (who make up 40 percent), Australians, Britons, Germans and Chinese. “Singapore has opened up a lot in recent years and we’re drawing foreigners keen to park their money as well as live here,” a developer said. ^^

“Some of the nouveau riche came because of their children’s education. Among them is action star Jet Li, who bought a bungalow for S$19.8mil (RM47.15mil) last year. He took up citizenship and sent daughter, Jane to study here. Another new settler, US investment guru Jim Rogers, with a net worth of US$1.8bil (RM5.55bil), also came to send his daughter to the reputable Nanyang Primary School two years ago. To ensure she got a better chance, Rogers and his wife had performed 40 hours of volunteer work, something the locals do. ^^

“Who are the richest foreigners living here? The Forbes’ list of top 40 ranks China-born Zhong Sheng Jian, 48, as the fourth richest man in Singapore with a net worth of US$2.5bil (RM7.71bil). And 47 year-old Indian-born Sudhir Gupta, now a naturalised citizen is ranked 13th richest. He has a personal fortune estimated at US$320mil (RM987.3mil). ^^

“Seventeen percent of foreign buyers of high-end property in the first quarter are Chinese, and the number is rising. One out of five bought houses in prestigious multi-million dollar districts of 9 to 11, the Central Business District (CBD) and Sentosa. Some salesmen have reported cases of Chinese buyers paying the down payment with a bag of cash, leading to suspicion they may be keen to cover the money trail. ^^

“Recently a growing number of foreigners have turned to buying landed properties. Under the law foreigners, including PRs, cannot buy any property on land or any apartment with fewer than five storeys – except with special approval. Under its strategy of attracting the wealthy and talented to settle here, the government appears to be loosening the screw. ^^

Richest People in Singapore

Richest People in Singapore (Rank, Name, Net Worth, Age): 1) Ng Robert & Philip---$9.2 billion ; 2) Khoo family---$6.7 billion; 3) Wee Cho Yaw---$4.7 billion, 84; 4) Kwee brothers---$4 billion; 5) Richard Chandler---$2.9 billion, 54; 6) Kwek Leng Beng & family---$2.4 billion, 72; 7) Kuok Khoon Hong---$2.3 billion, 63; 8) Eduardo Saverin---$2.2 billion, 31; 9) Peter Lim---$1.7 billion, 60; 10) Ong Beng Seng & Christina Ong, $1.6 billion, 68. [Source: Forbes, 2013 <*>]

1) Ng Robert & Philip---Net Worth: $10.1 Billion as of March 2013; Source of Wealth: real estate; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Forbes Lists: 108 in the world, 1 in Singapore, 1 Singapore's 40 Richest. Profile: Brothers Robert and Philip Ng's debut on list as coexecutors of the family estate inherited from their late father Ng Teng Fong who developed more than 700 hotels, malls and condos in Singapore and Hong Kong. Family's Far East Organization built one in six of the private homes in Singapore. In 2012, they listed the Far East Hospitality Trust, the largest hospitality and serviced residence portfolio by asset value on the Singapore stock exchange. Biggest part of their fortune is in public Tsim Sha Tsui Properties, chaired by elder brother Robert, in Hong Kong. Younger sibling Philip manages family's Singapore interests. <*>

2) Khoo family---Net Worth: $6.7 Billion as of July 2012; Source of Wealth: Banking; Residence: Singapore; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Forbes Lists: No. 2 Singapore's 40 Richest: 2 in 2011. Late banker Khoo Teck Puat left fortune to his 14 children in 2004, including a stake in Standard Chartered Bank, which they sold in 2006 for an estimated $4 billion. Family still controls Goodwood Group of Hotels. They have been donating to various causes in their father's name. <*>

3) Wee Cho Yaw---Net Worth: $5 Billion as of March 2013; Age: 84; Source of Wealth: banking; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Marital Status: Married; Children: 5; Forbes Lists: No. 248 in the world, 2 in Singapore; No. 290 in 2012, 3 Singapore's 40 Richest. Wee Cho Yaw, chairman of United Overseas Bank, Singapore's most valuable bank, will be stepping down in April after close to 40 years at the helm though he will remain on the board. It was founded by his father and run by him for 33 years until 2007, when son Wee Ee Cheong became chief executive. Family's property developer and private equity company Kheng Leong, opened an office in Shanghai last year; Topiary, a condo project they co-developed in Singapore, sold out its 255 units in four hours in December. Singapore listed Haw Par, which family owns nearly one quarter of, makes iconic Chinese ointment Tiger Balm. <*>

4) Kwee brothers---Net Worth: $4.6 Billion as of March 2013; Age: 68; Source of Wealth: real estate; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Education: Bachelor of Arts / Science, Philadelphia University; Marital Status: Married; Children: 5; Forbes Lists: No. 272 in the world, 3 in Singapore, 4 Singapore's 40 Richest. Among Singapore's wealthiest clans and biggest landlords, the four Kwee brothers debut on list on the rising value of their jointly owned privately-held property developer and hotel operator Pontiac Land. Its collection of prime properties includes the Ritz-Carlton, the Regent, Conrad Centennial and the Capella in Singapore. Recent projects include Capitol Center, a $600 million luxury property development in which they have a 50 percent stake. Kwee Liong Keng, the eldest, is managing director; Kwee Liong Tek, an avid art collector, is chairman. Brothers Kwee Liong Seen and Kwee Liong Phing sit on board. The business was founded in 1959 by their father, Henry Kwee as a small company developing architecturally distinctive homes. <*>

5) Richard Chandler---Net Worth: $2.85 Billion as of March 2013; Age: 54; Source of Wealth: investments; Country of Citizenship: New Zealand; Marital Status: Single; Forbes Lists: No. 502 in the world, 2 in New Zealand; No. 230 in 2012, 5 Singapore's 40 Richest. New Zealand native Richard Chandler, now a resident in Singapore, runs Richard Chandler Corp., a fund aimed at emerging markets that he founded after splitting with his billionaire brother Christopher. In October, he invested $112 million for 13.4 percent of Union Bank of Nigeria; in December he agreed to pay $74 million to acquire 15 percent of WesternZagros, an oil and gas company operating in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Holdings include a stake in Sino-Forest, a controversial Canadian-listed Chinese timber firm, which filed for bankruptcy protection last year after trading was suspended in August 2011 on allegations of fraud. <*>

6) Kwek Leng Beng & family---Net Worth: $2.4 Billion as of July 2012; Age: 72; Source of Wealth: Diversified; Residence: Singapore; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Education: LLB, University of London; Marital Status: Married; Children: 2; Forbes Lists: No. 6 Singapore's 40 Richest: 9 in 2011, 194 Billionaires (2007). Fortune of head of Hong Leong Group is higher this year as it includes shares of cousins Kwek Leng Peck and Kwek Leng Kee, who were earlier listed separately. The 3 inherited conglomerate Hong Leong, started by their fathers in the 1940s. City Developments holding on to about $1.2 billion in cash. Malaysian billionaire cousin QuekLeng Chan heads conglomerate Hong Leong Group Malaysia. <*>

More of the Richest People in Singapore

7) Kuok Khoon Hong---Net Worth: $2.6 Billion as of March 2013; Age: 63; Source of Wealth: Palm Oil; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Marital Status: Married; Children: 4; Forbes Lists: No. 554 in the world, 4 in Singapore; No. 314 in 2012, 7 Singapore's 40 Richest. Profile: Shares of Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil company, in which he has minority stake and runs as chief executive, fell close to 30 percent in the past year due to declining profits and depressed palm oil prices. Wilmar is expanding into speciality chemicals in a joint venture with Swiss firm Clariant and processed foods with Archer Daniels. His other investments include a small stake in Zhong Sheng Jian's Yanlord Land and London's Aviva Tower, which he co-owns with Indonesian billionaire and Wilmar shareholder Martua Sitorus. He and Sitorus are investing in property developments located around China's high-speed railways. <*>

8) Eduardo Saverin---Net Worth: $2.2 Billion as of March 2013; Age: 31; Source of Wealth: Facebook, self-made; Country of Citizenship: Brazil; Education: Bachelor of Arts / Science, Harvard University; Marital Status: Single; Forbes Lists: No. 670 in the world, 24 in Brazil; No. 634 in 2012, 8 Singapore's 40 Richest, 212 Forbes 400 (2011). Profile: Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin renounced his United States citizenship in 2011, news of which broke days before the company's IPO and drew accusations of tax evasion. His response: "My decision to expatriate was based solely on my interest in working and living in Singapore, where I have been since 2009." Saverin, immortalized in The Social Network as Mark Zuckerberg's onetime best friend, provided Facebook with early seed money, earning him a one-third stake. This fell to 30 percent when Zuckerberg's roommate, Dustin Moskovitz, joined. When the others dropped out of Harvard to relocate to California, Saverin stayed behind. Facebook later sued him for allegedly interfering with business and insisting on keeping a 30 percent stake; Saverin countersued. The parties settled, with Saverin apparently receiving a 5 percent stake and a co-founder bio on Facebook's site. He has since sold more than half his stake in Facebook and has started to invest in startups including Qwiki and Jumio, which created the online payment Netswipe. <*>

9) Peter Lim---Net Worth: $2 Billion as of March 2013; Age: 60; Source of Wealth: investments, self-made; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Marital Status: Married; Children: 2; Forbes Lists: No. 736 in the world, 5 in Singapore; No. 764 in 2012, 9 Singapore's 40 Richest. Profile: Former stockbroker Peter Lim has been busy dealmaking since cashing out from palm oil producer Wilmar International in 2010. Stepped up investments in Malaysia recently by partnering state-owned property developer UEM Land Holdings to build Motorsport City, a $1.2 billion motor racing complex in Johor's Iskandar region. His Thomson Medical is partnering with Johor's royal family to build a medical hub there as part of a $ 3 billion integrated development called Vantage Bay being developed by Rowsley, a company that Lim also controls. His other interests include stakes in Chinese property developer Yanlord Land, retailer FJ Benjamin and British automaker McLaren. <*>

10) Ong Beng Seng & Christina Ong---Net Worth: $1.6 Billion as of July 2012; Age: 68; Source of Wealth: Diversified, self-made; Residence: Singapore, Singapore; Country of Citizenship: Malaysia; Marital Status: Married; Children: 2; Forbes Lists: No. 10 Singapore's 40 Richest: 7 in 2011. Profile: Couple's biggest asset is their stake in luxury British handbag maker Mulberry. They also control Hotel Properties, fashion chain Club 21 and industrial group NSL, which OBS runs. Wife Christina oversees boutique hotel operator Como Group. Other interests include the Singapore Grand Prix and a stake in oil trader Kuo International, run by Peter Fu Chong Cheng (No. 28), Christina's brother. She chairs the National Parks Board and sits on the board of Singapore Airlines. <*>

11) Raj Kumar & Kishin RK---Net Worth: $1.5 Billion as of July 2012; Age: 59; Source of Wealth: Real Estate; Residence: Singapore; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Marital Status: Married; Children: 1; Forbes Lists: No. 11 Singapore's 40 Richest. Profile: Father and son debut on list this year. Following a family settlement in 2011 between Raj and his younger brother Asok Kumar Hiranandani, their privately-held property empire now includes Raj's Royal Holdings and Kishin's RB Capital. <*>

12) Zhong Sheng Jian---Net Worth: $1.7 Billion as of March 2013; Age: 55; Source of Wealth: real estate, self-made; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Marital Status: Married; Children: 5; Forbes Lists: No. 882 in the world, 6 in Singapore; No. 913 in 2012, 12 Singapore's 40 Richest. Profile: Property tycoon Zhong Sheng Jian, chairman of Yanlord Land Group, saw his wealth climb after the company's strong financial showing there last year and on expectations of a recovery in real estate prices in China, where Yanlord's business is focused. For the first nine months of 2012, Yanlord's net profit nearly quadrupled to $199 million on sales up by a third to $919 million in the latest display of Zhong's success at targeting the country's middle-to-upper-income consumers. In recognition of Yanlord's good image, Zhong holds honorary citizenships in Nanjing, Zhuhai Shanwei and Suzhou. He actively participates in China-Singapore business groups, and is also a member of the Tianjin People's Political Consultative Conference Standing Committee, a political consultation body. <*>

13) Lee Seng Wee---Net Worth: $1.35 Billion as of July 2012; Age: 82; Source of Wealth: Banking; Residence: Singapore, Singapore; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Education: Master of Arts, University of Western Ontario; Bachelor of Arts / Science, University of Toronto; Marital Status: Married; Forbes Lists: No. 13 Singapore's 40 Richest: 10 in 2011, 224 Billionaires (2006). Profile: Sits on board of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., Singapore's third-largest bank, after serving as chairman for 8 years until his retirement in 2003. Also chairs Temasek Trust's board of trustees. <*>

14) Sam Goi---Net Worth: $1.7 Billion as of March 2013; Age: 64; Source of Wealth: frozen foods, self-made; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Marital Status: Married; Children: 4; Forbes Lists: No. 882 in the world, 6 in Singapore; No. 1015 in 2012, 14 Singapore's 40 Richest. Profile: Singapore's 'Popiah king' Sam Goi is the world's largest maker of frozen rice wraps used to make spring rolls. He's expanded the portfolio of his privately-held Tee Yih Jia Food Manufacturing with acquisitions, such as a stake in dairy products firm Etika International Holdings. Goi has profited from China's economic boom and rural migration to second and third tier cities, by diversifying into property. His property arm GSH Corporation signed a deal recently to develop a marine eco-city in Zhangzhou. Son of a Fujian farmer, Goi dropped out of school to work in his father's grocery store. Started repair shop then took stake in struggling food unit which he eventually bought over. <*>

15) Koh Wee Meng---Net Worth: $1.4 Billion as of March 2013; Age: 49; Source of Wealth: real estate, self-made; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Marital Status: Married; Children: 1; Forbes Lists: No. 1031 in the world, 9 in Singapore, 15 Singapore's 40 Richest. Profile: Property tycoon, hotelier Koh Wee Meng debuts on list as shares of his Singapore-listed Fragrance Group surged over the past year. He spun off Fragrance's hotel arm into Global Premium Hotels, listing the budget hotel chain last April and is now also expanding into commercial real estate. He broke off from family's jewelry business to get into property in the 1990s. Vintage car collector, he's sued a Rolls-Royce dealer in Singapore for allegedly selling him a defective Phantom car in 2008. <*>

16) Lim Oon Kuin---Net Worth: $1.5 Billion as of March 2013; Age: 69; Source of Wealth: oil trading, self-made; Country of Citizenship: Singapore; Marital Status: Married; Children: 3; Forbes Lists: No. 974in the world, 8 in Singapore, 16 Singapore's 40 Richest. Profile: Lim Oon Kuin founded Hin Leong Trading, one of Singapore's largest independent oil traders at the age of 20 in 1963 with a single truck. Known as OK, he worked as an apprentice mechanic as a teenager. Has majority stake in Universal Terminal, Asia's largest oil logistics terminal whose higher valuation this year makes him a billionaire. Lim also owns a fleet of 100 tankers via shipping arm Ocean Tankers run by son Evan. To counter shipping glut last year, it formed a tanker pool consortium with Denmark's A.P. Moller-Maersk, Japan's Mitsui O.S.K Lines, Singapore's Samco Shipholding. His two daughters also work with him. <*>

Sam Goi: the Self-Made Billionaire Asian Frozen Food King

Billionaire Sam Goi made his debut among Singapore’s richest in 2011 at the age of 62. Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop wrote in the New York Times, “Life has a funny way of wrapping around for Sam Goi. Twenty-eight years ago, Goi, a self-made businessman here, bought a small, underperforming manufacturer of popiah, which are the pastry skins around spring rolls and egg rolls, and turned it into a multimillion-dollar global company that dominates its niche market. "I saw potential in the food business," he said. "It's very resilient to crisis. Even in bad times, people always eat." [Source: Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, The New York Times, January 13, 2006]

In a profile, Forbes.com, reported: He “sits in a plush office in the Senoko industrial belt that’s decorated with antiques and rare Chinese paintings by masters like Wu Guanzhong and Fan Zhen. On tony Nassim Road, the preferred address of Singapore’s uber-rich, Goi’s 50,000-square-foot mansion is even more opulent, filled as it is with his prized possessions: 17th-century baroque figurines and pâte de verre sculptures from Daum, among much else. Parked in his garage is his latest toy, the Lexus LFA supercar. [Source: Forbes.com, July 27, 2011 */*]

“The good life has come to Goi (born Goi Seng Hui) through a business that seems more hawker-stand than haute cuisine: producing crepelike wraps that are used for spring rolls or popiahs, as they are called in Goi’s native Hokkien dialect. Tee Yih Jia Food Manufacturing, the flagship of his privately held frozen foods empire, with estimated revenues of $1.3 billion, is the world’s largest maker of popiah skins, producing 35 million pieces daily in factories in Singapore, China, Malaysia and the U.S. Sold under its Spring Home brand, they can be found in Chinatowns in major cities around the world from San Francisco to Kolkata as well as China. Competitors have sprung up, but none matches Tee Yih Jia, which exports 90 percent of its production to 49 countries. */*

“The Chinese from Goi’s native Fujian Province were the originators of popiahs and popularized what is essentially a healthful peasant food wherever they’ve resettled. Popiahs are stuffed with a mix that includes turnips, bean sprouts, lettuce, carrots–meats can be added, too–and eaten with hoisin sauce. From making just the skins, Goi’s company has expanded into making popiahs themselves and a range of other ready-to-eat items drawn from Asian cuisines, including roti paratha, Indian samosas, glutinous rice balls and prawn rolls. “I’m a simple man who started in a small way with the humble popiah. But now we’ve gone far beyond that,” says Goi. “Sam has shown that with drive, passion and determination anything is possible. He’s a go-getter,” says his hotelier friend and fellow rich lister, Ow Chio Kiat, who chairs Stamford Land. */*

Goi is often cited by the government as an example of home-bred success for having built a global business from roots in the tiny island-state. “The ‘Made in Singapore’ stamp helps food exporters to market their goods overseas, and Tee Yih Jia has capitalized on that,” says Azlina Sulaiman, group director for lifestyle business, IE Singapore, the government’s international trade agency. Goi acknowledges that: “The strength of Singapore’s brand equity has opened doors around the world for me.” With his food interests and other holdings, notably in real estate, he debuts at No. 12 among Singapore’s richest, with a fortune estimated at $1.2 billion. */*

“Food wasn’t a business that Goi set out to do. His father, Goi Koh Tong, a farmer and well-to-do landowner from in China’s Fujian province, fled to Singapore when Goi was 6 years on a small boat from China to escape the Communist government. "I still remember: no bed," he said. "We slept on the cargo for a whole month."

The family settled in Geylang, a seedy area known as Singapore’s red-light district, where his father opened a small grocery store. Goi and his three siblings lived in a one-room tenement, but “We were happy,” he recalls. Goi dropped out of high school to help his father at the store. To escape the monotony, he started doing odd jobs at a mechanical repair shop where he discovered that he had a flair for fixing machines. In 1969, when he was 21, he persuaded his father to lend him $8,000 so he could start his own repair shop. In less than a year the business had to close for want of customers. “*/*

Sam Goi Creates His Frozen Food Empire King

Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop wrote in the New York Times, “His immediate strategy was to export to new markets, first Australia, then Europe and the United States. The first 10 years were "very difficult" for the entrepreneur who would hit the road himself, knocking on doors of restaurants in Chinatowns to sell his product. "We targeted Chinese restaurants, but most are run by Hong Kong chefs who like to use handmade pastry," he said. "They didn't want to use a Singaporean product." Putting his mechanical knowledge to good use, Goi automated the manufacturing process in the early 1980s, which helped propel the business. Diversifying into fortune cookies, samosas, crepes and roti prata, all marketed under the Spring Home and Masterchef brands, provided the next steps on the road to success. The secret of his popiah? The quality of the pastry, he says, which doesn't break easily. Today, as much as three-quarters of the company's production goes to other food manufacturers and restaurants, while the rest is sold on supermarket shelves and even upscale specialty stores like Harrods. [Source: Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, The New York Times, January 13, 2006]

Forbes.com, reported: “Chastened but wiser, he tapped the informal Chinese community lending network to raise $16,000 and have another go at the same business under a new name. In four years his Sing Siah had grown to revenues of $500,000, and he’d repaid his father’s initial loan. Emboldened, he grabbed an opportunity to repair ships at the Jurong Shipyard, partnering with a group of engineers to start Interwide Mechanical Engineering. Within four years his two companies had revenues of $2.5 million and employed 400 people, becoming big enough to afford to move to an industrial zone. [Source: Forbes.com, July 27, 2011 */*]

“It was here that Goi (pronounced “Gwee”) stumbled upon popiah skins, which were being made in a nearby factory whose owners he’d befriended. The unit was struggling with feuding partners, among much else. In what he calls a gesture of goodwill, he bought a controlling stake for $370,000 in 1977, raising the money through his savings and a bank loan. When he discovered that his partner had surreptitiously started a similar business under the same name in Malaysia, Goi bought him out and took full control of Tee Yih Jia in 1980. */*

“Back then it was a small operation, employing 23 people and producing 3,200 popiah wraps a day. Goi quickly figured that to grow, he would have to seek markets outside Singapore. But supplying to the broader market would require a quantum leap in production capacity. He imported machines from Japan, and after much trial and error, devised a proprietary mechanical process that produced square-shaped wraps that were thin and delicate to handle, yet strong enough to stretch. */*

“They tasted as good as the traditional round handmade variety, and, best of all, they were cheaper. Handmade popiah skins, which retail for 40 cents each, are produced at the rate of four per minute; a person making them can at best work for two hours at a stretch. By comparison, machine-made crepes, which sell for under 6 cents each, can be churned out at the rate of 180 pieces per minute. */*

Cracking the production problem proved easier than selling. He recalls his first-ever plane journey to Sydney to participate in a food fair that attracted the world’s biggest food companies. “It was David versus Goliath,” he smiles. Doing the rounds of Sydney’s Chinatown he faced stiff resistance for his New Age popiah skins. He continued visiting restaurants, talking to chefs, making the point that the square shape lent itself more easily to be molded into a pastry. In time his persistence paid off. */*

“After securing a foothold in Australia, Goi targeted other markets, in Europe and the U.S. He entered the U.S. in 1983 but made little headway until 1988 when he acquired Main On, a Los Angeles- based food distributor. He went from shipping two 20-foot containers a year to two containers every month to the U.S. His next stop was China, where the government was wooing overseas Chinese back home. Goi headed to his native village of Fuqing to set up a food factory. “There was no road, water or electricity, but he would tell skeptics that people create their own path with their footprints,” recalls Derek Goh, chief executive of Serial System, a distributor of electronic components in which Goi has a stake. Today the group operates three food factories in China. */*

“As for Goi, since handing over operations in 2006 to his U.S.-educated children, three of whom work with him, he’s been prospecting for new businesses. His biggest play is in property back in the mainland. As an investor he’s developed a reputation for spotting undervalued companies. “I never invest in momentum stocks, commodities or precious metals,” he says. His portfolio, valued at over $150 million, includes companies in health care, water treatment, logistics and education. */*

“His frozen-food business would be a ripe target for a company looking to make an inroad into ethnic foods. Goi says he has no intention to sell but doesn’t rule it out. Of late he’s preoccupied with charitable work. He regularly contributes to education, sports and community projects. “When you have a plateful while others are hungry for a mouthful, it’s a recipe for trouble.”

From Spring Roll Skins to Tofu Noodles

Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop wrote in the New York Times, “The food manufacturer, which continues to grow at 10 percent to 15 percent a year, controls more than half of the world's supply of spring roll pastries, "with about 80 percent of the market in Europe and Australia and about 50 to 60 percent of the market in America," Goi said. "We don't really have any big competitors who produce the same type of quality as our spring roll pastry." Goi's entrepreneurship has been lauded by the Singaporean government as an example to follow. "Popiah skins may not seem a glamorous line of business to some of you," Goh Chok Tong said in 2001, when he was prime minister. "But I am proud of the inroads Sam has made in the international market. It could be the start of something much bigger," [Source: Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, The New York Times, January 13, 2006 */*]

“Tan Li Lin, director of the lifestyle division of International Enterprise Singapore, said: "Tee Yih Jia's success stems from its focus on quality through the automation of its manufacturing and quality control standards. Its international reach and success is a shining example of the global prominence achievable by our local companies." From making 800,000 pieces of popiah skin a day, the company now churns out more than 30 million pieces daily. Goi attributes his achievement to the "three S's": start small, specialize and be a strong market leader. */*

“In recent years, Goi has become less involved in the day-to-day operation of the company and spends more time in China, where he has personally invested in more than 10 companies. Yet, he is now very excited by "the challenge" of his "new baby" - the tofu noodles he expects to bring out this year. He is planning a three-pronged strategy selling to instant-noodle manufacturers and to other noodle manufacturers to sell under their own brands, as well as introducing his own brand. While some manufacturers do include tofu in noodles, up to 20 percent, no one has really done a 100 percent tofu noodle before, Goi said, adding that the health benefits of the product are great: no cholesterol and very low sugar, making it perfect for diabetics. */*

"I believe it's time for Tee Yih Jia to move into a new product line," Goi said. "A few months ago I bought a small Chinese company that has patented noodles made 100 percent with bean curd. They're only making 50 tons a month. It's selling in China and exporting to Germany. I'm planning to automate the whole process and launch the product worldwide." Though Goi acknowledges that he has been approached by other companies willing to buy his business, he says he has no desire to sell or take the company public. "Why? This way I'm only answerable to me," he said, laughing.” */*

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Singapore Tourism Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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