This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Singapore’s Richest 2021. See the full list here.
After shrinking 5.8% in 2020, Singapore’s economy has revived and is expected to grow 6% to 7% this year. Regarded as one of the safest havens amid a global pandemic, the country is looking to ease border restrictions as vaccinations rise but remains on alert for any new upticks in Covid-19 infections. Despite uncertainties, the benchmark Straits Times Index rose 26% since fortunes were last measured a year ago, helping to fuel the combined wealth of the country’s 50 richest to $208 billion from $167 billion.
With the coronavirus still at large, shares of Li Xiting’s Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics, a maker of high-tech medical devices, rose 19% since last year, adding $5.2 billion to Li’s net worth and propelling him to No. 1 with $23 billion.
Hotpot couple Zhang Yong and Shu Ping slipped from the top spot they had occupied last year to No. 4 with $16 billion. Shares of their restaurant chain, Haidilao International Holding, dropped nearly 17% the day net worths were locked in on news that the company’s performance was below expectations. They were among the seven listees whose fortunes declined.
The majority—36—were up from a year ago. Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin, added $6.5 billion to reclaim the No. 2 position after a two-year gap, with a record $20.5 billion fortune. Paints tycoon Goh Cheng Liang, whose oldest son Goh Hup Jin orchestrated a $12 billion deal that increased the family’s holding to a majority stake in Japan’s Nippon Paint Holdings, is the third richest with $18.6 billion.
Singapore’s efforts to foster a culture conducive to startups are paying off; one-fifth of the list members are now self-made tech tycoons. Three among them, namely Forrest Li, Gang Ye and David Chen, the cofounders of gaming and e-commerce firm Sea, are this year’s biggest gainers in percentage terms and have more than doubled their individual wealth.
There are 42 fortunes worth $1 billion or more—up from 35 a year ago—including two that belong to newcomers, both with roots in China: crypto billionaire Changpeng Zhao, who has been living in Singapore since 2019. His firm Binance, which has set up outposts in the city-state, is facing regulatory scrutiny in several countries around the world.
Former college professor Shi Xu makes his debut after the October IPO of his NanoFilm Technologies International made him a billionaire. The third new entrant to this list is the Malaysian-born cofounder of Grab, Anthony Tan, who has previously featured among Malaysia’s richest. Tan, a Singapore citizen, is aiming to conclude one of the biggest SPAC deals later this year that values the Singapore-headquartered ride-hailing and delivery giant at $40 billion.
Three dropped off including pioneering shipping tycoon Chang Yun Chung, who died last September at age 102. His privately held Pacific International Lines, which was impacted by Covid-19 headwinds, concluded a debt restructuring plan in March that diluted the family’s holding to a minority stake.
Full Coverage of Singapore’s Richest 2021:
Additional reporting by Megha Bahree, Nina Bambysheva, John Kang, Anuradha Raghunathan, Jessica Tan and Yue Wang.
The list was compiled using shareholding and financial information obtained from the families and individuals, stock exchanges, analysts and other sources. Unlike our billionaire rankings, this list includes family fortunes, including those shared among extended families such as that of Kwek Leng Beng and his cousins. Net worths are based on stock prices and exchange rates as of the close of markets on July 26, 2021. Private companies were valued based on similar companies that are publicly traded. The list can also include foreign citizens with business, residential or other ties to the country, or citizens who don’t reside in the country but have significant business or other ties to the country.