Entrepreneur Asia: Power Players

Asia's Richest Entrepreneurs

Photo: Stephanie Deissner | Getty Images

Asia, home to some of the world's fastest growing markets and economic powerhouses, has also seen a boom in those rising to the ranks of the super wealthy.

The continent overtook North America two years ago as home to the most millionaires, according to a study by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management.

Some have ridden the economic wave and expanded an inherited fortune, but there are many others who have engineered dramatic turnarounds, starting from scratch to create billionaire empires.

We have compiled a list of Asia's 10 richest first-generation businessmen from data provided by Wealth-X, a research firm that tracks the world's super rich. The total wealth of these top 10 Asian entrepreneurs is more than $110 billion. The net worth figures are based on public and private holdings and other assets as of March 1.

Click ahead to find out who these self-made billionaires are and how they made their money.

By Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani
(Posted May 10, 2013)

10. Robin Yanhong Li, 44

Photo: ChinaFotoPress | Getty Images

Net worth: $4.9 billion
From: China

Robin Yanhong Li is the youngest self-made billionaire in our Asia's richest Entrepreneurs list.
The 44-year-old co-founded China's biggest online search engine, Baidu, with Eric Xu in 2000 after developing software for U.S. tech firms IDD and Infoseek in Silicon Valley. Li had earned a master's degree in computer science from the State University of New York, before setting on his entrepreneurial venture. The billionaire is currently the chairman and CEO of Baidu, which also offers other online services like mapping and encyclopedias.

Building on its success, Baidu was the first Chinese company to be listed on the in 2007. Google's departure from the Chinese market in 2010, allowed Baidu to cement its position as the number one choice for Chinese language internet search services. That same year Li was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people for pioneering internet search in China. Baidu holds about 80 percent of China's online search market.

Li has a 16 percent stake in Baidu, which has a market cap of nearly $30 billion. His wealth also includes shares held by his wife, Melissa Ma.

9. Sunil Mittal, 55

Photo: Dibyangshu Sarkar | AFP | Getty Images

Net worth: $6.5 billion
From: India

Sunil Bharti Mittal is the founder of Bharti Enterprises and chairman of flagship firm Bharti Airtel, India's largest mobile service provider. Mittal is also India's eighth richest man, according to Forbes.

Mittal founded the group in 1976, at the age of 18, as a bicycle parts manufacturer with less than $500 from his father. The 55-year-old tycoon went on to establish Bharti Telecom, the first company in India to introduce push-button telephones in the 1980s and cordless phones a decade later. The group now has interests in retail, financial services and manufacturing, with operations in 20 countries.

Coming from a middle-class family in the north Indian city of Ludhiana to become one of India's richest men, Mittal told the Times of India in 2002 that he had started with a dream and was encouraged by his father, who was confident he would accomplish great things.

Mittal's twin sons Kavin and Shravin, 25, are also part of the Bharti group. Kavin is the head of strategy in a joint venture with Japanese telecom giant Softbank to develop social media, gaming, and e-commerce businesses in India.

Mittal, meanwhile, made headlines in March after he was ordered to appear in court in a case over alleged corruption in the allocation of mobile phone bandwidth more than a decade ago. Police have charged Bharti Airtel and two other firms that are now part of Vodafone's Indian unit over alleged irregularities in mobile spectrum allotment in 2002, Reuters reported.

8. Wan-Tsai Tsai, 83

Photo: Fubon.com

Net worth: $7.2 billion
From: Taiwan

Wan-Tsai Tsai is the only Taiwanese billionaire to make the richest entrepreneurs list and is the third wealthiest man in Taiwan, according to Forbes.

Tsai, a former legislator, founded the Fubon Group, one of the country's largest conglomerates, as Cathay Insurance in 1961. The group now has subsidiaries in construction, telecommunications and media.

Tsai's far-reaching conglomerate has become a family business with U.S.-educated sons Daniel and Richard chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of Fubon Financial - the group's holding company - which has a market cap of $12.7 billion.

In March, Fubon Financial won approval to buy an 80 percent stake in Chinese bank Firstsino Bank, the first time the green light was given to a Taiwanese bank to buy a stake in a Chinese Bank.

7. Liang Wengen, 56

Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Net worth: $7.9 billion
From: China

Liang Wengen is the chairman of Sany Group - one of China's largest construction equipment manufacturers.

Liang was born into a poor family in China's Hunan province, but managed to get a graduate degree and with three others founded Sany in 1989 as a small welding materials factory in the same province. Since then, the conglomerate has grown into a global operation with five industrial parks in China, and five manufacturing bases in the U.S., Germany, India, Brazil and Indonesia, along with 21 sales firms around the world.

Sany's concrete pumps were used to build the Three Gorges Dam in China, and its acquisition of German manufacturer Putzmeister in 2012 made it the world's top manufacturer of concrete pumps. Liang has a 58 percent stake in Sany. In 2012, he was named the "economic person of the year" along with 10 other business leaders by Chinese broadcast network CCTV.

In November, Liang made headlines in China when he said he had wanted to join the Communist Party more than two decades ago as it would have helped him find a pretty wife. He joined the party in 2004 after being rejected earlier due to his private business interests.

6. Masayoshi Son, 55

Photo: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Net worth: $8.8 billion
From: Japan

Masayoshi Son is the founder and CEO of Softbank, Japan's third-largest mobile carrier. He is also the third richest man in Japan, according to Forbes.

The grandson of Korean immigrants, Son grew up in a rural area southwest of Tokyo before moving to California to go to high school and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. While attending university, 19-year-old Son built a talking electronic translating machine, which he sold to Japanese electronics firm Sharp.

Son, then, returned to Japan and founded Softbank in 1981 as a computer and software distributor, which went on to become a telecom giant and invest in a range of companies in different industries like Yahoo, Aozora Bank and Nasdaq Japan. Softbank now has a market cap of over $53 billion and Son is reported to own more than 20 percent of the group.

Son made headlines last year in October when Softbank announced plans to buy a 70 percent stake in the United States' third largest wireless carrier Sprint Nextel for $20.1 billion.

5. Henry Sy, Sr., 88

Photo: Nana Buxani | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Net worth: $10 billion
From: The Philippines

Henry Sy Sr. is the oldest entrepreneur to make our list at 88 and is also the richest man in the Philippines, according to Forbes.

Sy migrated from China to the Philippines, getting his start by opening a small shoe store in Manila in 1958 called Shoemart. This store eventually led to his multi-billion dollar empire known today as SM Investments. The firm has now gone on to become one of the country's largest retail groups with interests in shopping malls, property, banking and hotels. The holding firm is the Philippines' most valuable listed company with a market cap of $17.2 billion.

Sy is reported to own 67 percent of the conglomerate, while his children are also involved in running the family business. His son Hans runs subsidiary SM Prime, which is the largest mall developer in the Philippines and opened a fifth mall in China in December. BDO Unibank, the country's largest bank, meanwhile, is run by his daughter Teresita Sy-Coson.


4. Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, 69

Photo: Udo Weitz |Bloomberg | Getty Images

Net worth: $10.7 billion
From: Thailand

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi is the owner of Thailand's largest brewer Thai Bev and the third richest man in the country, according to Forbes.

Rising from humble beginnings as one of 11 children of a street vendor who migrated from southern China to Bangkok, Charoen left school at the age of nine to start working. In the 1970s, Charoen started a small trading business selling local cheap beer and whiskey, and over the next decade and a half he went on to invest and own sugar mills, banks and insurance companies.

A big move in growing his beverage empire came in 1995, when he set up a joint venture with Danish brewer Carlsberg to produce Chang Beer and later formed Beer Thai, which went on to become part of Singapore listed Thai Bev. The tycoon is also heavily invested in real estate and his privately held TCC Land owns shopping malls and hotels from Singapore to New York.

Charoen made headlines in January with his takeover of Singapore's Fraser and Neave - a soft drinks, dairy, publishing and real estate conglomerate for about $11 billion, in what is Southeast Asia's biggest corporate takeover.

3. Tatparanandam Ananda Krishnan, 74

Photo: Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images

Net worth: $11.2 billion
From: Malaysia

Tatparanandam Ananda Krishnan is the second richest man in Malaysia with a business empire that spans telecoms, gaming, property, oil and pay-TV.

Born to Sri Lankan immigrants in Kuala Lumpur, the Harvard graduate first made his millions as an oil trader and was a founding director of state oil giant Petronas. Through his holding firm Usaha Tegas he has gained control of several Malaysian firms, and while he maintains a very low profile, he has a reputation for timing the stock markets well.

With his controlling stake, Ananda took Malaysia's top telecoms firm Maxis private in 2007 before the global financial crisis hit, and then relisted it in 2009 with a $3.3 billion initial public offering (IPO). In July 2011, he listed offshore oil firm Bumi Armada, raising $890 million just before market volatility forced the cancellations of many IPOs in Asia. Ananda's latest market move was the relisting of pay-TV firm Astro All Asia Networks in October, raising $1.5 billion after he had taken it private in 2010.

Known to guard his privacy, Ananda rarely makes public appearances and is reported to spend most of his time in the south of France with his wife and young daughter. His two children from a first marriage are not involved in the business empire, with his daughter reported to be a doctor in Britain, while his son is a Buddhist monk.

2. Zong Qinghou, 67

Photo: ChinaFotoPress | Getty Images

Net worth: $14.9 billion
From: China

Zong Qinghou is the richest person in China and the wealthiest member of China's legislature. He is the chairman and CEO of China's largest beverage producer - the Hangzhou Wahaha Group.

Zong founded the drinks maker as an elementary school shop selling vitamin drinks and candy in the eastern city of Hangzhou in 1987 with a loan of $22,000. The firm now has about 150 subsidiary companies, which also include children's clothing and 60 manufacturing bases across China. Zong owns more than 80 percent of the firm.

Known for his thrifty lifestyle, Zong said in an interview with BBC in 2011 that he lives on $20 a day. He still reviews every office expense and personally signs off on every major spending decision made in the company, according to media reports.

A key Chinese political figure and a member of the National People's Congress since 2002, Zong is no stranger to controversy. The tycoon made headlines in 2009 when his company ended its partnership with French food group Danone.

The high-profile legal battle led to mediation by the Chinese and French governments and saw Danone sell its 51 percent stake in its China joint venture to Wahaha. In 2008, Zong was reportedly investigated for income tax evasion to the tune of $42.9 million.

The group also made headlines this year in January after it signed a three-year sponsorship deal with 19-time English soccer champion Manchester United. Wahaha expects the sponsorship of the English Premier League club to boost sales of its energy drink Qili.

1. Li Ka-shing, 84

Photo: Dale de la Rey | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Net worth: $29.7 billion
From: Hong Kong

Li Ka-shing is the richest man in Asia and the wealthiest self-made business tycoon on the list. He is also the only Hong Kong resident to make the list.

Li, 84, is considered one of the most powerful business figures in Asia and his reputation for savvy business deals has earned him the nickname "superman." The Chinese business magnate left mainland China to go to Hong Kong with his family in 1928. He quit school after his father contracted tuberculosis and started working at the age of 12 in a plastics factory. Working his way up the ranks, Li became a salesman and then the general manager of the factory by age 19. Li went on to start his own plastic manufacturing business in 1950 at age 22, which is now Cheung Kong Industries - one of Hong Kong's leading real estate investment firms.

He started buying property in 1956 to add to the plastics business. The business was publicly listed in 1972 and continued to expand, acquiring Hutchison Whampoa and Hong Kong Electric, to name a few.

Li's business is now so diversified that it includes everything from shipping and telecommunications to biotechnology, with employees in 52 countries. His two sons, Victor Li, 48, and Richard Li, 45, manage his several businesses. Victor heads Cheung Kong, Hutichson Whampoa, and KC Life Sciences and is the heir to Asia's largest family fortune, while Richard is the chairman of telecommunications firm PCCW.