Forbes’ 50 richest in S’pore: Inflation, tech stock sell-off hit tycoons’ wealth

SINGAPORE – Surging inflation has not left Singapore’s billionaires unscathed, with their collective wealth dropping by more than 20 per cent this year, a study has found.

Forbes’ 2022 list of Singapore’s 50 richest people showed on Thursday that the tycoons’ combined wealth amounted to US$164 billion (S$230.4 billion), down from US$208 billion in 2021 when their net worth rose by 25 per cent.

Forbes said that while Singapore continues to be a magnet for the wealthy, rising inflation and the global sell-off in technology stocks this year took a toll on the top 50.

“The pecking order of the top five reflects post-pandemic realities,” said Forbes, referring to losses borne by the richest people on the list who benefited from the surge in demand for electronic products, online services and medical devices during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Li Xiting, founder and chairman of Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics, held the top slot. However, his wealth shrank by nearly a third to US$15.6 billion as shares of his medical device-maker dropped on slower sales growth.

The property sector’s continued recovery and new information on their real estate holdings propelled brothers Robert and Philip Ng to second place with US$15.2 billion, up from US$14.2 billion last year.

The Ng brothers control the Far East Organization, Singapore’s largest private landlord and property developer. The group was founded by their late father Ng Teng Fong, who moved here from China in 1934 and came to be known as the King of Orchard Road.

The net worth of 95-year-old paint tycoon Goh Cheng Liang, who controls Japan’s Nippon Paint Holdings, slipped 30 per cent to US$13 billion. He was still at No. 3 as the tech tycoons on the list took a bigger hit.

The sell-off in tech stocks worldwide more than halved the net worth of Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin to US$9.6 billion, pulling him down two places to No. 4. Facebook was recently renamed Meta.

Rounding out the top 5 with US$9.3 billion was the executive chairman of City Developments, Mr Kwek Leng Beng. His wealth rose from US$8.5 billion last year.

Last year’s red-hot stock, New York-listed gaming firm Sea, plunged in 2022 on increasing losses in its e-commerce arm Shopee.

The Sea stock plunge eroded the wealth of its three co-founders: Mr Forrest Li (No. 11 with US$4.2 billion), Mr Gang Ye (No. 13 with US$2.8 billion) and Mr David Chen (No. 48 with US$745 million).

The drop in their net worth came at over 70 per cent for each, making it the biggest drop in percentage terms on the list.

Grab’s co-founder Anthony Tan, who made the list last year, dropped out after his ride-hailing and e-commerce company’s stocks nearly halved their value since their debut on the Nasdaq exchange in December 2021.