This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Singapore’s Richest 2021. See the full list here.
Academic-turned-entrepreneur Shi Xu joins the list for the first time with a net worth of $1.8 billion following the IPO of his firm Nanofilm Technologies International. Its wear-resistant carbon coating has become a must-have for products such as auto parts, optical lenses and smartphones.
The 57-year-old founder and executive chairman raised more than S$470 million ($349 million) last October in Singapore’s biggest listing in four years excluding REITs. Since then shares have roughly doubled on rising earnings and revenues—boosting Nanofilm’s market cap to S$4.3 billion—and providing a windfall for its cornerstone investors, including Venezio Investments, a unit of Singapore’s Temasek.
Net profit climbed 61% to S$58 million in 2020 from a year earlier as revenue jumped 53% to S$218 million. The company, whose clients include Fuji Xerox, Huawei and Microsoft, has 1,400 employees across China, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam.
With new projects relating to smartphones and tablets in the pipeline, CGS-CIMB Securities forecasts that revenue will increase 28% and earnings by 47% this year. Nanofilm used part of the IPO proceeds to fund expansion, opening a new factory in Shanghai in February.
Shi started the company while working as an associate professor at Nanyang Technological University’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, which provided seed funding; it was spun off from the Singapore university in 1999. He and his wife Jin Xiao Qun, an assistant vice president at the company, moved to Singapore from China in 1991.