Vietnam doubles presence on Forbes Billionaires List

Vietnam has had two representatives on the Forbes 2017 Billionaires List for the first time, with the female CEO of a budget airline joining a realty mogul who has been among the world’s richest for the last five years.

Pham Nhat Vuong, chairman of realty conglomerate Vingroup, enjoyed his fifth straight appearance, while Vietjet CEO and President Pham Thi Phuong Thao made her debut on the latest list released on on March 20.

Vuong has a net worth of US$2.4 billion, and Thao, US$1.2 billion, ranking them at 867th and 1,678th place on this year’s list, according to Forbes.

Vuong is the founder and chairman of Vingroup, one of Vietnam's largest conglomerates. The company, which derives most of its revenue from selling houses and apartments, is expanding rapidly into retail, logistics, agriculture, education and healthcare.

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VietJet founder Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao (2nd, top left) is seen among members of the 2017 Forbes list of billionaires in this photo provided by Forbes.

Vingroup’s biggest project, the US$1.5 billion Vinhomes Central Park that features an 81-story skyscraper, apartment buildings and a park resembling New York City's Central Park, is on track to be completed in Ho Chi Minh City in 2018.

Vuong studied in Moscow, then moved to Ukraine, where he started Technocom, a maker of instant noodles. He moved back to Vietnam in 2001 and got into real estate, eventually selling his food company in 2009 to Nestlé.

He remains the richest man in Vietnam, with a recent report revealing that he owns nearly 65% of the company, directly and indirectly through a holding company, Vietnam Investment Group, according to Forbes.

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Vuong debuted on Forbes’ billionaires list in 2013 with a net worth of US$1.5 billion, ranking him the 974th richest person in the world.

Thao launched low-cost airline Vietjet in 2011 and made a big splash early on with ads featuring bikini-clad flight attendants. The airline, which offers 300 flights a day, operates more than 40% of Vietnam's flights.

In February 2017, Vietnam's first self-made female billionaire started listing her airline on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange.

Thao also has investments in HDBank and real estate including three beach resorts, according to Forbes. She is one of 15 new self-made women to make their way onto the Forbes 2017 Billionaires List.

Forbes' latest rich list shows that Bill Gates remains in the number one spot for the fourth year in a row, meaning he has been the richest person in the world for 18 out of the past 23 years. He has a fortune of US$86 billion, up from US$75 billion last year.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Amancio Ortega, founder of Spanish clothing chain Zara and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg complete the top-five.

US President Donald Trump's net worth plunged to US$3.5 billion, or roughly a third of what he claimed during his successful presidential campaign, Reuters reported.  

In a press release, Forbes commented that it was a record year for the richest people on earth, as the number of billionaires jumped 13% to 2,043 from 1,810 last year.

This edition also marks the first time ever that Forbes has listed more than 2,000 ten-figure-fortunes. The group's total net worth rose by 18% to US$7.67 trillion, which is also a record.

The change in the number of billionaires – up by 233 since the 2016 list – was the biggest in the 31 years that Forbes has been tracking billionaires globally.

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