Sy, Ayala, Aboitiz in Forbes’ list of Asia’s richest families
Sy, Ayala, Aboitiz in Forbes’ list of Asia’s richest families
The 3 prominent Filipino clans are included in the magazine's inaugural list of the 50 wealthiest business dynasties in the region

MANILA, Philippines – The Sy, Ayala, and Aboitiz families made it to Forbes magazine’s “Asia’s richest families” list released on Thursday, October 8.

The family of Henry Sy – the Philippines’ richest man based on Forbes “50 richest list for 2015″ and ranked 97th among the world’s billionaires – was No. 13 among the 50 wealthiest business dynasties in the region.

With a net worth of $12.3 billion, the patriarch Sy worked at a young age for his family’s convenience store. Later, he started a small shoe store in Manila and built it into SM Prime, the country’s largest mall developer. The family’s interests now range from banking to retail, and growth plans involve building “micro cities” around some of its existing mall properties. (READ: SM allots P80 billion for mall expansion)

The Sys also have a stake in privately-owned electricity firm National Grid Corporation, the country’s power transmission operator. “Sy’s children are all involved in management and meet weekly over lunch to discuss the business; their mother sometimes joins. Grandchildren are taking active roles,” Forbes wrote.

The Zobel de Ayalas, with an estimated net worth of $4.22 billion, are ranked 35th on the list. The 181-year-old Ayala Corporation, now run by the seventh generation of the family, started off as a small distillery and is now one of country’s largest conglomerates.

The oldest and diversified conglomerate in the country also serves as the holding company for publicly traded Ayala Land, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Globe Telecom, and Manila Water.

Seven siblings control more than one-third of the company: Jaime Zobel serves as chairman emeritus. His son, Jaime Augusto II, is chairman and CEO, while his other son, Fernando, is president and COO. “Three members of the eighth generation are also involved. The family’s Ayala Foundation helps fund Ayala Museum in Makati, among other projects,”  Forbes wrote.

The Aboitizes ranked 44th on the list with a net worth of $3.6 billion. The family’s Cebu-based, publicly listed conglomerate Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV) has interests in power, transportation, banking, food, and property.

AEV, founded in the late 1800s by Paulino Aboitiz, the son of a Spanish farmer, began as an abaca (Manila hemp)-trading and general merchandise business, and later moved into interisland shipping, transporting goods across the Visayas. In 1994, the family listed AEV on the Philippine Stock Exchange, but it retains private interests in construction and shipbuilding.

“Nineteen family members, mostly fourth- and fifth-generation, are involved in day-to-day operations. The family, known to hold reunions for 400-plus relatives, has a constitution and formal process for those descendants interested in joining the company and/or working their way up to management,” Forbes wrote. Jon Ramon Aboitiz serves as AEV’s chairman of the board.

Top 10 richest clans in Asia

Forbes wrote in the October issue of its Asia edition that family is at the core of many of the region’s biggest and most far-flung conglomerates and some of its best-known brands.

The top 10 richest families in Asia are:

  1. Lee from South Korea; $26.6 billionThe Lee family of Samsung Group hit 2014 revenues equivalent to 22% of South Korea’s gross domestic product.
  2. Lee from Hong Kong; $24.1 billion – Henderson Land Development was formed as a subsidiary in 1976 and has since grown into a leading property developer in Hong Kong and China.
  3. Ambani from India; $21.5 billion – In 1968, Reliance Textile Industries launched the popular Vimal textile brand. After the patriarch’s death in 2002, the empire has since been divided.
  4. Chearavanont from Thailand; $19.9 billion – Charoen Pokphand Group, one of the world’s largest producers of animal feed and livestock, got its start in Bangkok’s Chinatown.
  5. Kwok from Hong Kong; $19.5 billion – The Kwok property empire extends from Hong Kong skyscrapers to more than 80 million square feet of properties across mainland China.
  6. Kwek / Quek from Singapore, Malaysia; $18.9 billion – The Hong Leong Group has 150 hotels that dot the skylines of 20 global cities. Its portfolio includes one of Asia’s largest financial services company and its biggest consumer and industrial-goods trading company.
  7. Premji from India; $17 billion –  Mohamed Hasham Premji, current chairman Azim Premji’s father, started Wipro in 1945 as Western Indian Vegetable Products  to make cooking oil from peanuts. Renaming the company Wipro, Azim began assembling desktop computers and offering software services and eventually reaping huge gains, as did the rest of India’s technology sector during the run-up to 2000, “when companies around the world sought to make their systems Y2K-compliant,” Forbes wrote.
  8. Tsai (Financial) from Taiwan; $15.1 billion – Brothers Daniel and Richard have led the financial services giant Fubon Financial since their father, Tsai Wan-Tsai, the company’s founder, died. “The third generation is on the rise: Hong-tu’s sons Tsung-Hsien and Tzung-Han are executive vice presidents in Cathay, and Richard’s son Chris is president of Fubon Sports & Entertainment,” Forbes wrote.
  9. Hinduja from India, UK; $15 billion – Four brothers control multinational conglomerate the Hinduja Group. Its interests extend from banking to transportation, energy, technology, and media.
  10. Mistry from India; $14.9 billion – Construction giant Shapoorji Pallonji Group is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Tata Sons, holding company of the Tata Group, remains the family’s biggest source of wealth to this day.

Wealth-building across generations

Forbes said families that were included in the list have built their fortune which has extended to at least 3 generations. The list also includes those who have gone separate ways in business or are entirely estranged, like India’s Ambani family.

Those with a $2.9 billion net worth were included, and valuations were based on stock prices and exchange rates as of September 25. Many of the family businesses are publicly traded.

“Nearly half of the richest families in Asia are of Chinese descent, yet none of the inaugural 50 is based in the mainland, where conglomerates are young, run by the first generation able to muster billions of dollars in wealth in an open economy,” Forbes wrote. –

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