Monday, March 1, 2021
Wealthiest families in Asia
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Who are Asia’s wealthiest families?

The Ambani family is Asia's wealthiest, according to Bloomberg. (Reuters Photo)
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Bloomberg recently published its list of 20 wealthiest families in Asia, who together control $463 billion of fortune, up about $10 billion from last year.

The ranking, which was compiled on November 13, excludes first-generation wealth such as that of Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma and those in the hands of a single heir. As a result, the list doesn’t have any family from mainland China, where fortunes are relatively young and often focused on tech.

So, who are Asia’s wealthiest families this year?

Ambani Family of India

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, and his wife Nita Ambani. (Reuters Photo)

Leading the pack of the ultra-rich families in Asia are the Ambanis of India, amassing a total wealth of $76 billion as per Bloomberg Billionaire Index report. The Ambanis alone hold nearly 17 percent of the fortune that the top 20 families own.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the family managed to add $25.6 billion to their fortune. They are successors to the founder of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries Limited.

While others battled against losses, the Ambani family had struck deals with some of the world’s leading tech giants to sell stakes in Reliance’s digital unit. Tycoon Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest and most powerful private citizen, transformed his refinery-led conglomerate into a technology titan.

The family lives in a 27-storey skyscraper in Mumbai, and has in recent years never been afraid of displaying their fortune and influence. As they assumed an outsized role in Asia’s economy, it was easier to get the likes of Beyonce and Coldplay’s Chris Martin for weddings or parties.

Their wealth continues to grow, with Reliance getting almost $90 billion in annual revenue.

As a matter of fact, the family is now more than twice as wealthy as Asia’s second richest, the Kwoks of Hong Kong. The Ambanis have triple the fortune of South Korea’s Lee family and almost five times the net worth of Japan’s Torii and Saji clan.

Kwok Family of Hong Kong

Brothers Raymond Kwok, Walter Kwok, and Thomas Kwok at the 2004 Sun Hung Kai Properties annual meeting. (Reuters Photo)

This year’s a bad time for the Kwoks. Though they remain as one of Asia’s most opulent families, the family ‘s fortune shrunk by almost $8 billion in the past 12 months, the steepest drop among Asian clans.

The family owns Hong Kong’s largest property empire, Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., whose shares are now trading at less than half of the value of the company’s net assets.

Despite the losses, the Kwoks have a history of defying odds. When the Asian financial crisis and SARS plunged the country into one of its worst-ever property bear markets from 1998 to 2003, the family invested heavily on building International Finance Centre. The office and mall complex in the central business district is now of Sun Hung Kai’s most iconic properties, commanding some of the highest rents worldwide.

Finance professor Joseph Fan said that the Kwoks can weather the crisis. They have more than 129 million square feet of land between Hong and mainland China, enabling them to endure a long and cold winter.

“Having deep pocket helps,” Fan said.

 “The family and the group are financially sound, enabling them to endure a long and cold winter. Having deep pocket helps,” Fan said.

According to the Bloomberg report, the Kwok family’s net worth is $33 billion.

Chearavanont Family of Thailand

Dhanin Chearavanont, chairman of Thailand’s largest agribusiness group, Charoen Pokphand Food. (Reuters Photo)

Chia Ek Chor fled his typhoon-ravaged village in southern China and started a new life in Thailand, selling vegetable seeds with his brother in 1921.

About a century later, Chia’s son Dhanin Chearavanont and his family are named the third wealthiest in the region. The family owns Charoen Pokphand Group, a conglomerate with food, retail and telecom units.

The group has several listed companies. CP All is the sole operator of 7-Eleven convenience stores in Thailand. True Corp. is the country’s largest cable TV and internet and mobile service provider.

80-year-old Dhanin Chearavanont stepped down as chairman of Charoen Pokphand in April 2019. His personal fortune is estimated at $17.4 as of last year.

Altogether, the Chearavanonts have an estimated net worth of $31.7 billion.

Hartono Family of Indonesia

Multi-billionaire Michael Bambang Hartono. (Getty Images)

Prominent brothers Michael and Budi Hartono inherited the cigarette brand Djarum from their father, Oei Wie Gwan. The family holdings also include popular electronics brand Polytron and a prime real estate.

The Hartono brothers got more than 80 percent of their wealth from their investments in Bank Central Asia. The family bought their stake in the bank during the Asian economic crisis in 1997-1998.

Their combined net worths make up $31.3 billion.

Lee Family of South Korea

The late Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee. (Reuters Photo)

Lee Byung-chul started Samsung as a modest trading company exporting fruit, vegetables and fish in 1938. He then got into electronics business in 1969 when he set up Samsung Electronics.

The conglomerate split into four independent entities during the 1990s: Samsung, CJ, Shinsegae and Hansol.

Now led by second and third generation of Lees, the businesses altogether bring in hundreds of billion dollars in annual sales from electronics and retail to food, entertainment and paper.

After Lee Byung-chul’s death in 1987, the company was headed by his son Lee Kun-Hee, whose strategic business decisions put Samsung on a pedestal.

Samsung then rose to become the world’s largest producer of smartphones and memory chips under Lee Kun-Hee’s leadership, with overall turnover equivalent to a fifth of South Korea’s GDP.

Lee Kun-Hee died in October this year.

According to Bloomberg, the Lee family’s fortune is estimated at $26.6 billion.

Here’s a full list of the top 20 wealthiest families in Asia:

  • Ambani of India – net worth of $76 billion
  • Kwok of Hong Kong – net worth $33 billion
  • Chearavanont of Thailand – net worth $31.7 billion
  • Hartono of Indonesia – net worth of $31.3 billion
  • Lee of South Korea – net worth of $26.6 billion
  • Yoovidhya of Thailand – net worth of $24.2 billion
  • Cheng of Hong Kong – net worth of $22.6 billion
  • Mistry of India – net worth of $22 billion
  • Pao/Woo of Hong Kong – net worth of $20.2 billion
  • Sy of the Philippines – net worth of $19.7 billion
  • Tsai of Taiwan –  net worth of $19 billion
  • Lee of Hong Kong –  net worth of $17.3 billion
  • Kwek/Quek of Singapore and Malaysia – net worth of $16.5 billion
  • Torii/Saji of Japan – net worth of $16.3 billion
  • Kadoorie of Hong Kong – net worth of $16.1 billion
  • Hinduja of India – net worth of $15.1 billion
  • Ho of Hong Kong – net worth of $14.6 billion
  • Chung of South Korea – net worth of $14.1 billion
  • Ng of Singapore – net worth of $13.8 billion
  • Chirathivat of Thailand – net worth of $12.9 billion

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