Richest Filipinos in 2018: Real Estate Tycoons

Exponential growth in the Philippines’ real estate and property development sector fuels wealth of Filipino billionaires.

Despite the current fascination with the constantly and rapidly evolving virtual technology realm that has created a ton of billionaires in the planet over the last few decades, nothing beats investments in real estate as a solid barometer when measuring someone else’s wealth.

When Forbes Magazine came up with its latest list of the country’s richest tycoons in September 2018, the most notable billionaire who had leapfrogged from the list was former senator Manny Villar, a self-made billionaire whose primary business interest is in real estate and property development. With a net worth of $1.6 billion in 2017, the real estate tycoon more than tripled his net worth in a span of one year to $5 billion, according to the business magazine which publishes an annual list of the world’s wealthiest individuals. Read on to find out the richest Filipinos based on net worth.

Exponential growth in property development

Villar, a former presidential candidate who lost to former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, jumped to the number 2 spot in that list, replacing tycoon John Gokongwei, Jr.—who also has considerable business interests in real estate and property development, apart from an array of other businesses that include an airline company called Cebu Pacific and Universal Robina Corporation, a food and beverage conglomerate.  Gokongwei, Jr. has slid to the number 3 spot of richest Filipinos with a net worth of $4.4 billion. As the second richest person in the Philippines, Villar’s rank in the Forbes Magazine list has been his highest since he was first included in the exclusive circle of billionaires in 2006.

According to Forbes Magazine, the increase in Villar’s net worth can be attributed to his property development firm Golden Bria Holdings, a memorial parks operator (its former name was Golden Haven) that diversified and focused on real estate development. The firm’s share price registered a whopping 1,300 percent increase early last year. The highly profitable burial services business was merged with another Villar company that develops housing projects and residential condominiums for middle-class Filipino families.

His two other publicly listed real estate firms—Starmalls, Inc. (a mall operator) and Vista Land and Lifescapes (a property development company that has a dozen real estate portfolios and projects across the archipelago)—have also experienced remarkable growth in the country’s property development sector. Over the years, the Philippines has seen exponential growth in the real estate and construction industry.

Filipino billionaires

The Philippines’ wealthiest people in the Forbes Magazine list have, in one way or another, considerable investments in real estate and property development—whether it involves housing, residential condominiums, retail, and commercial, or leisure and entertainment. It remains one of the more common businesses that the country’s richest individuals have. Even the wealth of Henry Sy, Sr., who maintained his rank on the top spot of the Forbes Magazine list with a fortune of $18.6 billion, has benefitted from the astonishing growth of his companies that are primarily anchored on real estate.

Based on the Forbes Magazine list, Lamudi has rounded up the 10 richest real estate tycoons in the Philippines in 2018:

  1. Henry Sy (Net Worth: $18.6 billion)

Henry Sy. Photo via Businessworld

The retail king of the Philippines and his family own what many consider as the most ubiquitous mall chain and the largest retailer in the country. Henry Sy’s fortune is anchored on his stake and interest in SM Investments Corporation, which he founded in 1958 as a shoe store named Shoe Mart. The company has business interests in shopping mall development and management, retail, real estate development, banking, and tourism. Sy’s children now run SMIC.

One of its subsidiaries, SM Prime Holdings, Inc., is the largest property conglomerate in the Philippines and one of the real estate industry leaders in Southeast Asia. It is the largest mall developer, both in terms of gross floor area and geographical reach, and operates close to 60 malls in the Philippines and six in China. It also specializes in residential properties, with various premium middle-market developments across Metro Manila, as well as luxury residences in Tagaytay City. It operates the Mall of Asia complex, a residential, business, and tourism district located on reclaimed land in Pasay City.

2. Manny Villar (Net Worth: $14.2 billion)

Manny Villar. Photo via Primer

Manny Villar is more popularly known in the world of politics, having served as Senate president during his term. His wife Cynthia is currently a senator while son Mark is the current secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways. During his younger years, Manny Villar worked for one of the country’s largest accounting firms after graduating from the University of the Philippines. He eventually resigned to start his first business, which delivered seafood to public market stalls.

His real estate venture began in 1975 when he purchased two reconditioned trucks to start a business delivering sand and gravel for construction companies in Las Piñas. This soon led to building houses, which paved the way for him to eventually become one of the richest Filipinos in the country. A loan that he borrowed from a rural bank marked his initial foray in property development: Camella Homes Phase 1 and 2, which are located in Las Piñas.

Villar’s Vista Land & Lifescapes (VLL) Inc. is now one of the Philippines’ largest real estate developers.  In 2015, Villar formed Vitacare Healthgroup, Inc. that would venture into building a chain of hospitals nationwide.

3. John Gokongwei, Jr. (Net Worth: $4.4 billion)

John Gokongwei Jr. Photo via Selfmade PH

John Gokongwei, Jr. is the chairman of Robinsons Land Corp. and a slew of other business conglomerates whose interests range from airline operations (Cebu Pacific) to food and beverages (Universal Robina Corporation, makers of Jack and Jill products and C2 drinks). He is the founder and chairman emeritus of JG Summit Holdings, Inc., one of the largest conglomerates in the country.

Robinson’s Land Corporation is the real estate arm of JG Summit. It is involved in the development and operation of shopping malls and hotels and is also one of the country’s most well-known developers of mixed-use properties, office buildings, residential houses, and condominiums, as well as socialized housing projects in key cities and other urban areas nationwide.

4. Jaime Zobel de Ayala (Net Worth: $4 billion)

Jaime Zobel de Ayala. Photo via Success Story

The chairman emeritus of the country’s oldest and most diversified conglomerates, Ayala Corporation, continues to remain as one of the country’s most respected business leaders. Ayala Corporation has business interests in real estate and property development (Ayala Land), telecommunications (Globe Telecoms), banking (Bank of the Philippine Islands), education, pharmacy, automobiles, and semiconductors, among others.

Ayala Land continues to be at the forefront of real estate and property development and is seen by many as an innovative leader in high-end vertical and horizontal property projects, which include Nuvali in Sta Rosa Laguna and Serendra in Bonifacio Global City.

5. Enrique Razon, Jr. (Net Worth: $3.9 billion)

Enrique Razon, Jr. Photo via Wall Street Journal

The Spanish-Filipino business leader is the chairman and chief executive officer of International Container Terminal Services, the country’s largest port operator. The firm also operates subsidiaries in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Americas. Since inheriting the company from his father in 1987, Enrique Razon, Jr. has transformed it into an industry leader.

Razon is also the head of Bloombery Resorts, which operates Solaire Resorts and Casino in PAGCOR’s Entertainment City. The company plans to build a similar venture in Quezon City on a  15,676-square-meter property that Sureste Properties, Inc. (a real estate firm owned and controlled by Razon) purchased from the National Housing Authority for 1.9 billion pesos.

6. Tony Tan Caktiong (Net Worth: $3.85 billion)

Tony Tan Caktiong. Photo via Success Story

The founder and chairman of the country’s biggest and most popular fast-food chain, Jollibee, has expanded his business venture into property development following his partnership with entrepreneur Edgar “Injap” Sia II, the founder of Mang Inasal, a fast-food chain whose primary product is grilled chicken.

In 2012, Tan Caktiong’s HoneyStar Holdings acquired a 50 percent stake in Sia’s Injap Land, resulting in a business venture that is now called DoubleDragon Properties Corp. The firm’s goal is to accumulate one million square meters worth of leasable space by the year 2020, almost 70 percent of which will be from a hundred community malls under its CityMall subsidiary, which is in partnership with Henry Sy’s SMIC.

7. Lucio Tan (Net Worth: $3.8 billion)

Lucio Tan. Photo via Abs-Cbn News

Lucio Tan’s business interests are varied, although some of his more popular and bigger ventures are Philippine Airlines, Asia Brewery, Philippine National Bank and Allied Bank, and Eton Properties. Most of these are listed under the LT Group, Inc., a publicly listed holding company founded by Tan. Its real estate arm, Eton Properties Philippines, Inc., specializes in high-end and middle-income high-rise and horizontal residential developments, office projects, commercial centers, and mixed-use township developments. It currently has 26 projects and has completed seven high-rise condominiums, one mid-rise building, three residential subdivisions, two commercial centers, one events venue, and three business process outsourcing hubs. The company also operates real estate properties in Hong Kong and China.

8. Ramon Ang  (Net Worth: $2.86 billion)

Ramon Ang. Photo via Esquire Philippines

The mechanical engineering graduate of Far Eastern University has become one of the Philippines’ most prominent business titans and one of the richest Filipinos in the country. Ramon Ang gained control of San Miguel Corporation, one of the country’s largest conglomerates, upon acquiring the shares of Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., the firm’s chairman.

San Miguel Properties, Inc. is the real estate arm of San Miguel Corporation and specializes in community and subdivision development, as well as in premium serviced living apartment through its Makati Diamond Residences.

9. George Ty (Net Worth: $2.75 billion)

George Ty. Photo via Philstar

The late George Ty, who passed away last year, founded Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, which is currently the second-largest bank in the Philippines in terms of assets and capital. Ty’s GT Capital Holdings also has interests in the auto industry, power generation, and insurance. Its real estate arm is Federal Land, Inc., which specializes in large-scale property development projects, which include residential condominiums, office buildings, retail and commercial centers, mixed-use townships, and master-planned communities.

Federal Land’s subsidiaries include Horizon Land Property; Bonifacio Landmark Realty Development Corporation (a developer of luxury hotels and residences such as the Grand Hyatt Hotel and Grand Hyatt Manila Residences); and Omni Orient Management Corporation (the company’s property management arm).

10. Andrew Tan (Net Worth: $2.6 billion)

Andrew Tan. Photo via Entrepreneur Philippines

The Filipino-Chinese businessman is the founder and chairman of Megaworld Corporation, one of the biggest property conglomerates in the Philippines. Its flagship developments include Eastwood City, McKinley West, and McKinley Hill, and Forbes Town Center.

A Chinese immigrant who later moved to the Philippines and studied accounting at the University of the East, Andrew Tan initially built his fortune on a liquor company that he started: Emperador Distillers, Inc. Along with Emperador, Tan’s holding company, Alliance Global, has interests in food and beverage (it owns the McDonald’s fast-food franchise), gaming, and real estate.

Megaworld Corporation is Alliance Global’s real estate arm. It is engaged in the development of large-scale, mixed-use townships. Megaworld’s subsidiaries include Empire East and Suntrust Properties. Some of Megaworld’s landmark projects are Forbes Town Center in Bonifacio Global City and McKinley Hill, a township project on a 50-hectare property in Taguig.

Other Filipino billionaires who are known for their business ventures in real estate and property development who have made it on the Forbes Magazine list include the family of the late David Consunji, whose property firm—DMCI Holdings—has an array of projects across the country, and Roberto Ongpin, a former trade secretary during the Marcos regime who founded and runs Belle Corporation, whose projects include Tagaytay Highlands, Balesin Island Club, and Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges.

For many of these wealthy Filipinos, investing in real estate and properties is a surefire way to fuel their net worth.

Sources: Forbes, Entrepreneur Philippines, and Lamudi Philippines


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