Sy, Zobel, Aboitiz families in Top 50 Asia richest by Forbes

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Three of the Philippines’ richest families have landed at the inaugural Top 50 list for Asia released by Forbes, with the magazine noting that blood ties are “at the core” of the region’s biggest conglomerates and brands.

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The Philippines’ Sy family—which operates the SM mall chain and the country’s largest bank, among other businesses—was ranked 13th, with a net worth of $12.3 billion or P568.04 billion via holding firm SM Investments Corp (SMIC).

Noting that patriarch Henry Sy had built the business from a small shoe store, Forbes said his children were now “all involved in management and meet weekly over lunch to discuss the business; their mother sometimes joins. Grandchildren are [also]taking active roles.”

SMIC holds the businesses of the Sys in property (SM Prime Holdings Inc.), banking (BDO Unibank Inc.) and retail (SM Retail Inc.). The family also has affiliates such as China Banking Corp. and casino and entertainment firms Belle Corp. and Premium Leisure Corp, among others.

The Zobels, behind the Ayala business empire, were 35th with an estimated $4.2 billion or P193.97 billion.

The Zobels owns the oldest conglomerate in the Philippines, Ayala Corp., which is active in real estate (Ayala Land Inc.), banking (Bank of the Philippine Islands), water concession (Manila Water Company, Inc.), infrastructure and transport projects (AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp.), power (AC Energy Holdings, Inc.), semiconductors (Integrated Micro-Electronics, Inc.) and education (LiveIt Investments Ltd).

“Seven siblings control more than one-third of the company. Jaime II, the eldest, is chairman and CEO; his son Fernando is president and COO,” Forbes noted.

The final Filipino clan in the Forbes list, the Aboitizes, were ranked 44th with a net worth of $3.6 billion or P166.26 billion.

The Aboitiz family is heavily involved in power and infrastructure projects through holding firm Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. It is also in banking (Union Bank of the Philippines, Inc.), food manufacturing (Pilmico Foods Corp.); and real estate (Aboitiz Land Inc.).

“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 said.

Forbes’ Top 50 list of the wealthiest families in Asia, released on Wednesday, took into account information on over 500 clans. To qualify, a family had to have at least $2.9 billion and the wealth and participation in building that fortune should have extended at least three generations.

This meant the exclusion of patriarchs such as Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing, whose grandchildren have yet to take serious roles in the family business, Forbes said.

The Top 50 list also consolidates assets held by feuding families, such as the Ambanis of India (3rd with $21.5 billion), the magazine said.

Heading the inaugural list was South Korea’s Lee family, which owns the Samsung empire, at $26.6 billion. Another Lee family, behind Hong Kong’s Henderson Development, was second with $24.1 billion.

Fourteen Indian families made it to the Top 50, “easily the most from any jurisdiction,” Forbes said.

While about half of the richest families in Asia are of Chinese descent, the magazine said none were from mainland China “where conglomerates are young, run by the first generation able to muster billions of dollars in wealth in an open economy.”

“There and elsewhere the challenge will be to keep wealth in the family while also keeping it growing,” Forbes said.

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