Property still propels S'pore's rich lists

Property still propels S'pore's rich lists

SINGAPORE - Rich lists might generate envy among many, but they do provide a useful snapshot of a country's economy. One look at Singapore's league tables of the wealthy and it is clear that this is a nation where creativity and innovation take a back seat to bricks and mortar.

Half of Singapore's 16 billionaires on the Singapore segment of Forbes' Billionaires list, released last month, derive their wealth from property development and hotels.

On Singapore's 50 Richest List, released by Forbes in August, nearly half were property tycoons too.

Coming out on top in Singapore is Far East Organisation, founded by the late Ng Teng Fong and now run by his sons, Philip and Robert Ng.

Another success story is that of Mr Kwek Leng Beng, whose wealth comes from listed City Developments, as well as other companies in the family's unlisted Hong Leong Group.

Other property families include the Kwee brothers, whose Pontiac Land owns five-star hotels such as the Regent Singapore, as well as office buildings like Millenia Tower.

Real estate has also given a leg up to an entire range of entrepreneurs in Singapore.

There is father-son pair Raj Kumar & Kishin RK, whose Royal Holdings and RB Capital portfolio contains assets such as Gallery Hotel. Son Kishin is also developing Farrer Park Medical Centre in Little India.

Even the humble budget-hotel chain has given Mr Koh Wee Meng of Fragrance Hotel and Mr Choo Chong Ngen of Hotel 81 a path to fortune, at No. 17 and 23 respectively on Singapore's 50 Richest List. Another player is Oxley's Ching Chiat Kwong, who popularised "shoebox" units, or very small apartments.

Like in Hong Kong, Singapore's success as a financial and trading hub has made property a sure bet in recent decades.

Singapore's transformation from British colony to developed economy benefited property developers as the population grew, fuelling demand. Singapore's strength as a trading and financial hub has also propelled the values of property assets higher.

Even the banking families behind OCBC Bank, United Overseas Bank and the former Overseas Union Bank can attribute some of their wealth to real estate. A buoyant property market would have benefited their home, construction and business loan units, for example.

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