How Manny Villar Became the Country's Richest Person

A look at how much Villar’s three listed firms have grown in value in the past two years.

For the first time since Forbes started to track former Senate president and property developer Manuel "Manny" Villar’s net worth in 2006, the Filipino tycoon's wealth breached the $5-billion mark this year, making him the country’s richest person.

Following the passing of SM Investments Corp. founder Henry Sy earlier this year, Villar emerged as the richest Filipino on Forbes’ annual billionaires' list, published on Tuesday, March 5, with a net worth of $5.5 billion.

While he has consistently ranked as one of the country’s wealthiest on Forbes’ list for more than a decade, the past two years have been significant for the 69-year-old tycoon as he saw his fortune rise almost three-fold during that time. In 2017, his net worth was only $1.65 billion.

So what spurred the recent growth?

Among Villar’s three listed companies, Golden Bria Holdings—cemetery builder and most recently acquiring the title housing developer—has the highest market capitalization. In two years, the company’s value rose by 2,664 percent, reaching P226.73 billion by Feburary 8, 2019, the cut-off date of the Forbes list.

Ever since the company was listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) in 2016, Villar’s wealth has never wavered. At least 64 percent of the company is owned by the Villars’ holding firm, Fine Properties Inc., making it the biggest shareholder.


The company’s robust success in the PSE may be due to its strong financial performance. By the end of the third quarter of 2018, the company posted its highest net income growth at 79 percent, reaching P915 million in value. And it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. Early last year, the company embarked on building low-cost housing projects on top of its burgeoning death care business.

Meanwhile, the performance of Villar's two other companies in the PSE has been conservative at best.

Real estate developer Vista Land and Landscapes Inc. (VLL) only saw its market capitalization grow by 28 percent to P82.53 billion by February 2019, from P64.65 billion in February 2017. The company is 65-percent owned by the Villar family through direct shareholdings as well as indirectly through Fine Properties and Althorp Corp., another Villar-owned holding firm.

Meanwhile, mall operator Starmalls Inc.’s value dropped by 12 percent to P51.99 billion in February 2018 from P58.98 billion in February 2017. The company is majority owned by VLL.

Still, both companies are in expansion mode.

Just last month, Villar led the launch of VLL’s condo business under the Camella Condo Homes (Coho) brand, as the company looks into becoming a significant real estate player in the coming years. The new business segment is funneling P20 billion worth of funds to develop 32 condominium buildings, which aim to cater to young professionals.

The Villars have also expressed interest in becoming a common cell tower provider as the government looks to tap private companies to help in the rollout program. According to the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the country needs at least 50,000 cell towers to meet consumer demand.

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All these imply that Villar looks bent on keeping the richest Filipino title for years to come. 

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Elyssa Christine Lopez
Elyssa Christine Lopez is a staff writer of Esquire. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz
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