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Sy family tops Forbes’ list

Chito Lozada



The children of the late taipan Henry Sy Sr. were the richest Filipinos in this year’s ranking of business bible Forbes whose collective wealth fell 22 percent to $60.6 billion as the pandemic disrupted the local economy.

In Forbes’ 10 wealthiest and their net worths are the Sy siblings, $13.9 billion; Manuel Villar, $5 billion; Enrique Razon Jr., $4.3 billion; Lance Gokongwei and siblings; $4.1 billion; Jaime Zobel de Ayala; $3.6 billion; Andrew Tan, $2.3 billion; Lucio Tan, $2.2 billion; Ramon Ang, $2 billion; Tony Tan Caktiong, $1.9 billion; and Lucio and Susan Co, $1.7 billion.

Forbes said the list was compiled using information from individuals, stock exchanges, analysts, private databases, government agencies and other sources.

Wealth values were taken from the subject individuals, stock prices and exchange rates as of the close of markets on 28 August 2020.

The worth of private companies was valued by using financial ratios and other comparisons with similar publicly-traded companies.

Since 2017, the list no longer includes families in which the founder of the business has died, unless the successors are wealthy enough to make the cutoff individually.

In these cases, inherited fortunes are combined, according to Forbes.

Lessons from patriarch
The six Sy siblings, Teresita, Elizabeth, Henry Jr., Hans, Herbert and Harley, inherited their fortune from their late father. Their combined net worth, according to the publication, is comprised largely of stakes held in the group’s publicly-traded SM Investments Corp. and SM Prime.

The family’s estate has its roots in Henry Sr., who sold overrun shoes in 1958 at a store in Manila he aptly called Shoemart.

Today SM is one of Southeast Asia’s largest conglomerates with interests in department stores, supermarkets, banks, hotels, real estate and mining.

Daily operations are now managed by professionals but the siblings sit on the group’s boards and guide SM’s overall strategy.

Manuel Villar is chairman of Vista Mall (formerly Starmalls) and chairs Vista Land and Landscapes, the country’s largest home developer.

Villar’s wife, Cynthia Villar, is a senator in the Philippines while he is a former Senate President.

Port business pays off
At third is Enrique Razon Jr. chairman of the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), which is a global terminal operator.

ICTSI has subsidiaries in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Razon’s grandfather started the business with a port in Manila in 1916, before his father rebuilt it after World War II. Enrique Jr. then expanded the business globally.

His hospitality firm Bloomberry Resorts includes the Solaire Casino and Resort, its crown jewel, in the Philippines.

Taking the fourth spot are the six Gokongwei siblings, Lance, Robina, Lisa, Faith, Hope and Marcia who inherited their fortune from founder of JG Summit John Gokongwei Jr.

Their combined fortune is derived largely from stakes held in JG Summit, which has interests in airlines, telecom, banking, food, power and property.

Lance runs JG Summit as its chief executive while his older sister Robina is chief executive of Robinson Retail.

Their portfolio also includes Universal Robina, one of the country’s largest F&B companies, started by their father as a cornstarch plant in 1957.

Fifth is Jaime Zobel de Ayala who chaired his family’s Ayala Group until retiring in 2006 when his son, Jaime II, took over.

His seven children control more than one-third of the conglomerate with a net value of $3.9 billion in yearly revenues.

Jaime’s grandfather started with a distillery in Manila, then expanded the business into banking, real estate, hotels, telecommunications and education.

Andrew Tan, Lucio Tan and Ramon Ang took sixth to eighth places with only a difference of $300 million among them with the Megaworld founder.

Sia sees opportunities
The biggest mover in the list is Edgar Sia II at 21st who is chairman of DoubleDragon Properties, the real estate developer he and his partner Tony Tan Caktiong listed at the stock exchange in 2014.

The company has been developing commercial and residential properties and reportedly plans to build 100 malls by 2020. Sia took his grocery chain MerryMart public in June 2020.

An aspiring architect, Sia dropped out of college to start Filipino fast-food label Mang Inasal. Sia sold a stake in Mang Inasal to Tan Caktiong in 2012.

He is followed in the list by Davao-based Dennis Uy at 22nd. Uy is founder of Udenna, a conglomerate with interests spanning petroleum, oil and gas, shipping, logistics, real estate, education and gaming.

Apart from Udenna, his fortune also comes from stakes held in public companies Phoenix Petroleum Philippines and Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure.

Mislatel Consortium now carrying the name Dito Telecommunity, which he formed in partnership with China Telecom, was named the third telecommunications player in Philippines in 2018.

Virus, a big spoiler
Despite having one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, the Philippines saw its COVID-19 cases surpass 250,000 in September, the highest number in Southeast Asia although the true measure which was the death rate remains manageable.

The country’s benchmark stock index, the PSEi, reflected the economic challenges the pandemic poses, falling 26 percent since fortunes were measured a year ago.

A total of 32 persons in the list saw their net worths decline. The Sy siblings took the biggest hit in dollar terms but remain at top with $13.9 billion.

Their fortune was down by $3.3 billion amid a contracting economy and soaring unemployment. Property tycoon Manuel Villar held on to his rank as the country’s second richest, even as his wealth fell $1.6 billion to $5 billion.

Enrique Razon Jr. moves one spot up to third this year with a net worth of $4.3 billion, down from $5.1 billion previously.

Lopez takes hard blow
Oscar Lopez (No. 32), who holds a majority stake in TV network ABS-CBN, saw his net worth nearly halved to $240 million after the House of Representatives in July rejected the company’s bid to renew its 25-year broadcast license. Listed ABS-CBN shares have lost close to 65 percent of their value over the past year.

Banking fortunes were especially hard hit. The Ty siblings (No. 12, $1.4 billion) of GT Capital and Metrobank saw their fortunes fall 46 percent, while Frederick Dy (No. 37) was down more than 46 percent to $190 million as shares in his Security Bank fell 52 percent over the past year.

Fast food billionaire Tony Tan Caktiong (no. 9, $1.9 billion) suffered a pandemic-induced blow to his wealth this year.

While nearly 90 percent of his Jollibee eateries had reopened by the end of June, most were limited to delivery and takeout. The lack of dine-in services cut sales by nearly half and sent his company’s shares down more than 40 percent, reducing Tan Caktiong’s net worth by 37 percent.

Changing times
The estate of San Miguel’s Eduardo Cojuangco, who passed away in June, was inherited by his wife, Soledad Oppen-Cojuangco, who ranks 16th with a net worth of $1.15 billion. She shares the fortune with their four children Carlos, Luisa, Margarita and Mark.

Six names dropped off the list, including Edgar Saavedra of Megawide Construction. Megawide’s shares fell by more than 65 percent after reporting a first-half net loss of 398 million pesos ($8 million). Megawide’s cofounder Michael Cosiquien, however, stayed on the list as most of his wealth is tied to an earlier sale of the company’s shares. Cosiquien ranks No. 40 with a net worth of $175 million.