In this May 13, 2020, photo, houses are dwarfed by towering buildings of Makati City on a quiet midnight as Metro Manila stays under coronavirus lockdown.
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Philippines' richest see fortune smashed by pandemic
Prinz Magtulis (Philstar.com) - September 17, 2020 - 9:26am

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 7:23 a.m., Sept. 18) — Wealth was wiped out from most of the Philippines’ richest people this year as the pandemic left some businesses struggling while others benefitted from a change in consumer behavior brought by the health crisis.

In the latest Forbes ranking of 50 wealthiest Filipinos, the Sy siblings controlling the country’s largest mall chain, SM Supermalls, retained the top spot with $13.9 billion in net worth, but store closures due to the health crisis also meant suffering the biggest decline in wealth.

A total of 32 personalities, from business magnates to politicians, suffered a cumulative $17.4 billion drop in wealth to $60.6 billion as of September this year, Forbes said. Ten others saw some increases, two sustained their net worth from last year, four were returnees to the list, while two were heirs to the deceased.

Following the Sy siblings in the second spot was Manny Villar, former senator and property tycoon, with a net worth of $5 billion, down from $6.6 billion. 

Villar was followed by Enrique Razon Jr., who recently took control of Manila Water Co. from Ayala Corp. at the height of President Rodrigo Duterte’s attacks to the water firm. Razon, seen in better standing with Duterte, was worth $4.3 billion, down from $5.1 billion.

Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, meanwhile, stayed at fifth place with wealth barely changed at $3.6 billion, Forbes list showed.

Lance Gokongwei and siblings took over the fortune of their father, John Gokongwei who died in November 2019 to rank fourth. The family which owns Cebu Air Inc., a budget carrier, saw their net worth sink to $4.1 billion as travel restrictions hit their airline business.

Andrew Tan of Megaworld Corp. jumped to sixth from 10th position in this year’s rankings with $2.3 billion, down from $2.55 billion a year ago. He dislodged Lucio Tan, chief executive of flag carrier Philippine Airlines, now worth $2.2 billion, down from $3.6 billion last year.

San Miguel Corp.’s Ramon Ang stayed in eighth place with $2 billion, followed by Tony Tan Caktiong of the Jollibee food brand, who saw his wealth nearly cut in half to $1.9 billion after the homegrown fast-food outlet shuttered stores due to the health crisis.

Down the list, Davao-based tycoon Dennis Uy stayed at 22nd place with wealth barely going down to $650 million from $660 million last year.


While the pandemic is generally bad news for business, abrupt changes in consumption due to the coronavirus benefited some ventures. Lucio and wife Susan Co, owners of Puregold Price Club Inc., a supermarket chain, jumped to 10th from 14th place even as their wealth decreased slightly to $1.7 billion. 

Vivian Que Azcona and her siblings operating Mercury Drug Corp., one of the largest drugstore chains, boosted their fortunes to $1.34 billion from $1.15 billion, enough to rise to 13th place this year.

Edgar Sia II, whose MerryMart Consumer Corp. debuted to the stock exchange last June, nearly doubled his net worth to $700 million to rank 21st place this year. He was at 28th and with $400 million last year.

Another gainer this year was P.J. Lhuillier, who runs Cebuana Lhuillier pawnshops. He is now worth $230 million, up from $208 million last year, which put him at 33rd place. 

Erramon Aboitiz, president and chief executive of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, went down a notch to 44th even as his fortune rose to $160 million.

William Belo, founder and chairman emeritus of Wilcon Depot, a home appliance retailer, went up to 19th place after gaining $30 million to $900 million. Betty Ang, president of Monde Nissin, one of the country’s largest food manufacturers, climbed nine places to 38th place with $185 million.

Differing fates

Apart from the pandemic, however, some rich individuals on the list also suffered losses for different reasons. The shutdown of ABS-CBN Corp., for instance, dealt a heavy blow to Oscar Lopez, chairman emeritus of Lopez Holdings which controls the network. His wealth dropped to $240 million from $460 million last year, crashing down to 32nd place.

On the flip side, Felipe Gozon of GMA Network Inc. moved up four notches to rank 42nd with his net worth rising to $170 million from $145 million.

Back to the list

Apart from people who replaced deceased relatives, there were four returnees to the Forbes list "largely due to this year's lower cutoff" of $100 million, the media company said. At 46th place was Michael Romero worth $135 million. Romero is currently serving as representative of 1-Pacman party-list in Congress.

Entering the 48th position was Luis Virata, who derives most of his wealth from his shares at Nickel Asia Corp. His net worth was pegged at $115 million. He was closely followed by Mikel Aboitiz, also of the Aboitiz Group, with $110 million.

At the bottom of the list was Lourdes Montinola, who sits as chair of Far Eastern University, with $100 million. She is the mother of Aurelio Montinola, former chief executive of Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands.


Editor's note: Clarified four people were returnees, not new entries

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