Forbes recently released its 2021 world’s wealthiest list, and it’s quite surprising. The number of billionaires has gone up by hundreds (2,755 in 2021, 2,095 in 2020) with their total wealth exploding to $13.1 trillion, up from just $8 trillion a year ago. All these figures stand in stark contrast with the economy-busting effects of the pandemic worldwide.
“...a record high 493 were new to the list — roughly one every 17 hours, including 210 from China and Hong Kong. Another 250 who’d fallen off in the past came roaring back. A staggering 86% are richer than a year ago,” according to Forbes.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos remains the world’s richest person for the fourth consecutive year, with an estimated fortune of $177 billion. Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, the biggest gainer in dollar terms, rocketed into the second spot with $151 billion. Both Amazon and Tesla enjoyed soaring profits last year.
The US still has the most billionaires than any other country, with 724. China (including Hong Kong and Macao) comes second with 698. The Asia-Pacific region has 1,1149 billionaires, with an estimated total worth of $4.4 trillion.
From Vietnam, five men and one woman made the cut.
Pham Nhat Vuong, owner of the country’s biggest private conglomerate Vingroup, has been on the list for nine years now. He remains the wealthiest person in Vietnam and ranks 344th worldwide, with a net worth of $7.3 billion.
“I don’t care how much money I make. I want to build things that make life beautiful,” Vuong told Forbes.
The 52-year-old Vingroup chair is a self-made billionaire, whose first business was a Vietnamese restaurant where he personally served customers. Beyond his investments in retail, real estate, healthcare, manufacturing and electronics, Vuong also supports non-profit ventures in education, sports and contemporary arts among others.
Ranking second in Vietnam and 1111th worldwide, VietJet Air CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao has net worth of $2.8 billion. She is considered as Vietnam’s first self-made woman billionaire when she launched the low-cost carrier. She also has investments in HD Bank and real estate, including three beach resorts.
Thao was also on Forbes Power Women 2018 and 2019. She was dropped off the list last year.
At number 1444 is Tran Dinh Long, founder of Hoa Phat Corp, an equipment and parts distributor. With a net worth of $2.2 billion, Long owns Vietnam’s biggest steel maker. His new $3 billion steel factory in Dung Quat has an annual capacity of five million tons, and he’s planning to expand further to meet the country’s growing demand for steel.
Ho Hung Anh, chairman of Techcombank, is at number 1931, with a net worth of $1.6 billion. Anh started investing in Techcombank in 1995, as he was trading goods between Eastern Europe and Vietnam. He took control in 2006, making it the largest commercial bank in Vietnam.
Another self-made billionaire, Tran Ba Duong, got his start working at an auto repair factory in the 1980s, and eventually worked his way up to management. Today, he owns the biggest car company in Vietnam, Truong Hai Auto Company (Thaco) and enjoys a net worth of $1.6 billion. He is Forbes’ number 1931 richest person.
Part of the billionaires list and a longtime business partner of Ho Hung Anh, Nguyen Dang Quang also invested in Techcombank in the 1990s and later founded Masan Group with Anh. Quang returned to the list this year at 2378, with a net worth of $1.2 billion.
Anh and Quang together control the two big listed companies they co-own: Anh is in charge of the bank as its chairman, while Quang focuses on building Masan Group.
Even with the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 to the global economy, Forbes said the rapid-fire public offerings, surging cryptocurrencies and skyrocketing stock prices contributed to the growing wealth of the world’s billionaires. As a matter of fact, this year’s list has four people worth $100 billion or more, up from just one (Bezos) in 2020.
Forbes' annual list calculates net worth by using stock prices and exchange rates from March 5. Besides the unprecedented growth of the number of billionaires, Forbes also noted that a record 1,975 people on the list are self-made, which means they have built their billion-dollar fortune through hard work and/or successful partnerships.