2018 Forbes Billionaires: Henry Sy is now richer than Elon Musk; Manuel Villar doubles his wealth

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12 Filipinos join Forbes’ 2018 list of ‘richest people on the planet’. Screenshot from forbes.com/billionaires/list


Forbes has just released its latest elite list of “The Three Comma Club,” referring to individuals whose estimated personal wealth — not their families’ — is at least US$1 billion as of the February 9 cut off.

Twelve Filpinos made the cut, down from the record 14 in 2017. Though lesser in count, the collective wealth of the Filipino billionaires in 2018, reached a whopping US$55.3 billion. That’s almost $10 billion more than the 14 billionaires’ total $45.8 billion total wealth the year before.

Here’s a rundown of why’s, who’s, and more:

1. HENRY SY SR. remains the richest Filipino and, currently, the wealthiest from Southeast Asia.

He added $7.3 billion to his estimated wealth of US$20 billion, about 57% higher than his $12.7 billon net worth in 2017.


2. Among the world’s richest people on the planet (as Forbes likes to call them), Sy now ranks 52nd.

He jumps 42 places from 92nd in 2017. This is his highest rank ever since he became the first Filipino to break into the Top 100 in 2013.

At 52nd, he ties with popular American hedge fund investor James Simons. This means:

  • Sy is slightly richer than Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors and rocket firm SpaceX fame) by about $100 million “only.” Musk’s $19.9 billion wealth puts him a notch below at 54th. (Because Sy and Simons share rank 52nd, no one ranked 53rd.) Interestingly, Sy who is 93, is more than double the age of Musk who is 46.

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  • Among the individual billionaires from Southeast Asia, Sy is on top. Out of the 2,208 world billionaires from 72 countries, here are the others from the region who made it to the Top 100:
    • 65th – Thailand’s Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi (est. $17.9 billion) of Thai Beverage (maker of Chang beer)
    • 69th and 75th – Indonesia’s brothers R. Budi Hartono ($17.4 billion) and Michael Hartono ($16.7 billon) of cigarette maker Djarum and Bank Central Asia
    • 95th – Thailand’s Dhanin Chearavanont ($14.9 billion) of CP Group
    • 96th – Malaysia’s Robert Kuok ($14.8 billon) of the Kuok Group, Shangrila Hotels, and Wilmar

3. Sy’s wealth and rank put him way ahead of his billionaire peers in the Philippines.

This 2018 the gap between him and the 2nd richest, JOHN GOKONGWEI JR., further widens.

Sy’s $20 billion worth is 3.4x more than Gokongwei’s $5.8 billon. From 2015 to 2017, the gap between the two ranged from 2.2x to 2.6x only.

While Sy leapfrogs to 52nd from last year’s 94th in the world ranking, Gokongwei’s stagnant wealth the past year allowed other world billionaires to overtake him. He slipped to 305th from 250th.

Sy’s real estate, retail and banking units delivered the goods in 2018, with holding firm SM Investments Corp, the country’s largest conglomerate, growing its net profit by 6% to P32.9 billion in 2017.

The Gokongwei conglomerate, JG Summit, did not do as well. Its airline business Cebu Pacific was hit by spikes in fuel costs, while flagship food and drinks unit URC is still struggling amid intense competition in branded coffee and snacks, and recovering after a lead issue in its drinks products in Vietnam.

Below is the complete list and some wealth details of the 14 Filipino billionaires:

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4. Two are out of the 2018 list:



Henry Sy may have added a whopping $7.3 billion to his war chest, the biggest jump in dollar terms, but it is actually MANUEL VILLAR whose wealth jumped the most in percentage terms.

Villar’s wealth doubled, in fact, to $3 billion from $1.5 billion a year ago. He breaks into the Top 1,000 for the first time since he joined the elite list in 2015. He now ranks 791st, an impressive jump of 585 notches. A year ago, he placed way behind at 1,376th. Villar, a former presidential candidate, has big ambitions for his property firm Vista Land.

RAMON ANG’s massive leap in his global rank is noteworthy, too. For adding $1.1 billion to his wealth now currently estimated at $2.5 billion, Ang steps up 503 places. He now ranks 965th from 1,468th a year ago.

Joining the Top 500 for the first time are Enrique Razon (rank 404th) and Lucio Tan (rank 441st). Razon’s ports and casino businesses added $1.5 billion to his wealth now estimated at $4.9 billion. Tan’s cigarettes, liquor and drinks delivered an extra $1 billion that pushed up his current worth to $4.7 billion.

Gokongwei, Razon, and Lucio Tan — who are respectively the second, third and fourth richest individuals next to Henry Sy — are the only Filipinos who made it to the Top 500.


Only Roberto Coyuito’s wealth dips among the 12 Filipino billionaires. The finance tycoon is slightly down by $100 million to $1.4 billion.

The rest either added “unimpressive” amounts of less than a billion — ie ANDREW TAN ($2.7 billion, up $200 million), GEORGE TY ($3.9 billion, up $400 million), TONY TAN CAKTIONG ($4 billion, up $600 million), EDUARDO COJUANGCO JR ($1.3 billion, up $100 million) — or their wealth remains stagnant — ie Gokongwei and ROBERTO ONGPIN ($1.1 billion).

These lackluster gains translates into lower global ranking. Coyuito is 274 notches down to 1,650th place; Ongpin slips 204 places to 1,999th; Cojuangco is down 78 to 1,756th; Andrew Tan is down 73 to 887th; Gokongwei is down 55 to 305th; George Ty is down 28 to 572nd.


For the 11th straight year, no member of the Ayala family joins the billionaires list. The last time Jaime Zobel de Ayala was in it was in 2007, when he and Henry Sy’s wealth were tied, making them the richest in the country that year.  Ayala Corporation is the country’s oldest conglomerate controlled by the same family for almost 200 years.


JEFF BEZOS is the first “centri-billionaire” since Forbes started tracking billionaires in 1987.

The Amazon founder’s wealth hit $112 billion after shares of his e-commerce giant rose a massive 59% in the past 12 months, boosting his fortune by $39.2 billion. He topples Bill Gates who’s now number 2 with $90 billion.


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