Covid-19 outbreak dents wealth of many Thai tycoons
Thailand’s export-and-tourism-dependent economy, already weakened by the US-China trade war, was dealt a further blow by the Covid-19 outbreak.
The nation’s 50 richest on the 2020 Forbes Thailand Rich List saw $28 billion erased from their combined wealth, which declined 18 per cent to US$132 billion.
The list is available at www.forbes.com/thailand and https://forbesthailand.com/forbes-lists/thailand-richest as well as in the April issues of Forbes Asia and Forbes Thailand.
Despite the government’s announcement of a $16-billion stimulus package, the benchmark stock index fell by nearly a third since April 2019 when fortunes were last estimated. As a result, 38 tycoons on the list suffered declines in their net worth, including six whose fortunes shrank by more than $1 billion.
The Chearavanont brothers of CP Group, who in March successfully acquired Tesco’s Thai and Malaysian operations for $10.6 billion, remained No 1 but their combined net worth declined by $2.2 billion to $27.3 billion.
Taking the No 2 spot is Chalerm Yoovidhya, who, along with his family, co-owns energy drink megabrand Red Bull. He was among the eight on the list whose wealth increased despite the broader rout. With gains of $300 million, his net worth rose to $20.2 billion from $19.9 billion last year.
Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi of Thai Beverage moved up to the third position with $10.5 billion, despite a nearly 36 per cent decline in net worth from last year’s $16.2 billion.
The Chirathivat clan, who listed their retail empire, Central Retail, in the stock exchange in February in what was Thailand’s biggest initial public offering, saw their wealth more than halve. They slipped to No 4 from No 2 with a fortune of $9.5 billion. With tourists and domestic shoppers now scarce, Central Retail’s shares had fallen 27 per cent below the IPO price when valuations were locked in and have fallen further since.
Indian-born petrochemicals tycoon Aloke Lohia (No 26) similarly took a big hit in percentage terms. Lohia, who has been on an acquisition binge, saw his net worth reduced to $1.09 billion from $2.52 billion last year as shares of his Indorama Ventures declined 57 per cent in the past 11 months.
Despite the collapse of global energy prices, three of Thailand’s four energy tycoons grew their fortunes. They benefited from their focus on natural gas and renewable power, which is in line with the government’s goal to switch to cleaner fuels. Among them is energy magnate Sarath Ratanavadi, the biggest gainer in dollar terms, with a net worth of $6.8 billion. Sarath got a $1.6-billion boost as his Gulf Energy Development launched more gas-fired power plants and took on new projects, such as ports and roads.
B. Grimm’s third-generation leader Harald Link (No 12, $2.3 billion) also saw his wealth rise 12 per cent as his company, B.Grimm Power, increased its power capacity by 40 per cent and profits jumped 34 per cent last year. The buoyant energy sector produced one of two newcomers to this year’s list. Wirachai Songmetta (No 40, $585 million) made his debut after the November listing of his family’s biomass power producer, Absolute Clean Energy.
Medical doctor Kumpol Plussind (No 38, $610 million), founder of listed hospital chain Chularat Hospital, made a comeback after a three-year absence as the addition of two new hospitals helped push up his company’s shares.
The minimum net worth required to make the list this year is $460 million, down from $565 million in 2019.
Forbes said the list was compiled using shareholding and financial information obtained from the families and individuals, stock exchanges and analysts, the Stock Exchange of Thailand and regulatory agencies.
Unlike the Forbes billionaire rankings, this list encompasses family fortunes, including those shared among extended families of multiple generations. Forbes said public fortunes were calculated based on stock prices and exchange rates as of March 13. Private companies were valued based on comparisons with similar companies that are publicly traded.