This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Taiwan’s Richest 2021. See the full list here.
While the pandemic disrupted lives and economies around the world, Taiwan remained largely unscathed. Swift prevention measures to tackle the coronavirus resulted in just over 1,100 cases and 12 deaths, amid a population of 24 million. Taiwan had one of Asia’s top-performing economies, growing 3% in 2020, thanks to booming tech exports and increased domestic demand. The benchmark Taiex index rose 45% since fortunes were last measured 15 months ago, lifting the collective net worth of Taiwan’s richest by a third to $149 billion.
This year saw the emergence of a new No. 1: Low profile Zhang Congyuan, founder of shoe manufacturer Huali Industrial Group, who shares the fortune with his family, debuted on the list with $13.8 billion, after the company’s hugely successful listing in Shenzhen. Zhang, who resides in Taiwan, built Huali into a key supplier for global brands, including Nike, Puma, UGG and Vans. Brothers Hong-tu & Cheng-ta Tsai of Cathay Financial Holding retained their No. 2 position with a net worth of $9.2 billion. Daniel & Richard Tsai, another sibling pair, whose fortune is drawn from financial services, moved up two spots to the third place with $7.9 billion.
Overall 36 listees added to their wealth, with some of the biggest gainers tied to semiconductors: Tsai Ming-kai, chairman of chipmaker MediaTek and the company’s former vice chairman, Cho Jyh-jer, saw their fortunes swell by more than 150% to $3.3 billion and $1.56 billion respectively, thanks to a surge in global demand for smartphone chips. Brothers Jason and Richard Chang of ASE Technology, a provider of semiconductor testing and packaging services, were the biggest dollar gainers with a $2.6 billion boost that propelled their net worth to $7.2 billion.
Morris Chang’s wealth was up 87% to $2.8 billion, as his Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, Apple’s main chipmaker, benefited from the much-anticipated launch of iPhone 12. Bruce Cheng more than doubled his net worth as shares in Delta Electronics, a maker of power components for Tesla, jumped amid the booming electric vehicle market.
A spurt in demand from makers of e-vehicles was a boon for tycoons with interests in plastics. Siblings Tseng Cheng and Tseng Sing-ai of petrochemicals-and-plastic giant Chang Chun group, who are listed jointly for the first time, came in at No. 17 with a combined fortune of $2.65 billion. Quintin Wu of USI and Asia Polymer, which make plastic resins, debuted at No. 47 with $840 million.
Among the nine listees whose fortunes declined were Tony Chen and Scott Lin, cofounders of Largan Precision, who took a hit as shares in their lens maker tumbled due to U.S. sanctions against Huawei Technologies, a major customer. Wu Li-gann was down 27% as his Shenzhen-listed WUS Printed Circuit, which makes electronic car components, suffered amid a general slump in the auto industry.
Huang Chung Sheng of Yechiu Metal Recycling returned to the list at No. 49 with $810 million. Three dropped off altogether: Chen Wu-kang of cosmetics firm Chlitina, and real estate magnates Tsai Tien-tsan and Lin Chang Su-O. The cutoff for making it to the list was $740 million, up from $590 million last year.
With reporting and research by: Jane Ho, Sean Kilachand, Tracy Wang and Yue Wang.
The list was compiled using information from the individuals, stock exchanges, analysts, private databases, official agencies and other sources. Net worth numbers are based on stock prices and exchange rates as of the close of markets on April 27. Private companies were valued by using financial ratios and other comparisons with similar, publicly traded companies. The estimates include a spouse’s wealth and, if the person is the company founder, the wealth of sons and daughters that is derived from that company. The list can have those who are included due primarily to extensive business and residential ties to Taiwan. In cases in which the fortunes of family members are based on the same company, we combine these members into one listing, as long as each of them has enough wealth to qualify for the list on their own.