Forbes names Vingroup boss again in rich list

Tuesday, Mar 03, 2015 14:59

Chairman of Vincom Group Phạm Nhat Vuong.

HA NOI (Biz Hub) — Founder and chairman of Vietnamese firm Vingroup Pham Nhat Vuong has once again been named by American business magazine Forbes in the list of the richest persons on the planet.

In a report published early this month, Forbes announced that Vuong still is the country's sole billionaire, a title he has held for the third time. He has a net worth of US$1.7 billion, an increase of $100 million over last year. However, his rank fell 26 spots to 1,118 out of 1,826 billionaires worldwide.

Vuong spent the past year expanding his conglomerate's real estate business. He launched dozens of new projects, of which the most notable is Vinhomes Central Park, a $1.5-billion development project that will have an 81-storey skyscraper, expected to be the tallest building in Viet Nam.

He's also building a theme park complex in Phu Quoc Island, which the government plans to turn into a tourist destination.

Vingroup's expansion into the retail sector is underway with 25 Vincom shopping centres due to open in 2015. In the next three years, Vuong wants to open 100 supermarkets (VinMart) and 1,000 convenience stores.

A corner of the VinGroup's Royal City in Ha Noi. — Photo

Vuong studied in Moscow and then moved to Ukraine where he started Technocom, a manufacturer of instant noodles. He moved back to Viet Nam in 2001 to plunge into real estate, eventually selling his food company in 2009 to Nestle. Vingroup also has investments in education and healthcare.

Despite plunging oil prices and a weakened euro, the ranks of the world's wealthiest defied global economic turmoil and expanded yet again.

For the 29th annual guide to the globe's richest, the Forbes found a record 1,826 billionaires with an aggregate net worth of $7.05 trillion, up from $6.4 trillion a year ago. The names include 290 newcomers, 71 of whom hail from China. Youth are on the rise, with a record 46 among the ranks being under the age of 40. However, the average net worth of the listed people was $3.86 billion, down $60 million from 2014.

Bill Gates is once again the richest person on the planet, a title he's held for 16 of the past 21 years. His fortune grew $3.2 billion since last year to touch $79.2 billion, despite a gift of $1.5 billion in Microsoft MSFT +0.07 % shares to The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in November 2014.

He is followed by Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico; American investor Warren Buffett, who is the list's largest gainer and whose wealth increased by $14.5 billion to reach $72.7 billion, thanks to Berkshire Hathaway's rising share price; and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who is also the leader in a youth revolution that has minted 46 billionaires under the age of 40.

California, driven by Silicon Valley tech companies, has spawned 23 new billionaires, including Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, cofounders of car-hailing service Uber, and their first employee Ryan Graves. Thirty-one year old Elizabeth Holmes, who runs blood-testing firm Theranos, debuts on the global list as the youngest self-made woman.

The year's biggest loser in dollar terms is Aliko Dangote of Nigeria, whose fortune dropped to $14.7 billion from $25 billion last year, propelled downward by a weaker Nigerian currency and shrinking demand for cement, his largest asset. He still retains the title of Africa's richest man.

The country that lost the most ground by far was Russia. It now has 88 billionaires, down from 111, less than not just the United States and China, but also Germany and India.

One hundred thirty-eight people from the 2014 list dropped out of the ranks altogether, including fashion designer Michael Kors, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Zulily's Mark Vadon and several Russians. Guatemala has a billionaire for the first time, and Iceland returns to the ranks after a five-year absence, the result of a comeback by Thor Bjorgolfsson, who's now the only billionaire in Iceland's history.

There's no doubt that entrepreneurship is thriving globally. Fully 1,191 members of the list are self-made billionaires, while just 230 inherited their wealth. Another 405 inherited at least a portion, but are still working to increase their fortunes. — VNS

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