Billionaires: IPO nets $2.3bn for Dr Sulaiman Al Habib

In our fortnightly roundup, the Saudi paediatrician becomes one of the world's richest doctors and a Chinese billionaire follows Elon Musk into space

Dr. Sulaiman Abdulaziz Al-Habib. Courtesy Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Group

Dr Sulaiman Al Habib

A Saudi paediatrician has become one of the world’s wealthiest doctors after the medical services group he founded priced its initial public offering at the top of a marketed range.

Sulaiman Al Habib’s 49 per cent stake in his eponymous company is worth 8.5 billion riyals (Dh8.3bn), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, based on the announced selling price of 50 riyals a share. He plans to sell 17.4 million shares in the IPO, according to the prospectus.

Dr Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Group is one of the biggest providers of health care in Saudi Arabia, operating hospitals, outpatient clinics, pharmacies and medical labs throughout the kingdom as well as in Dubai and Bahrain. The group employs more than 2,000 physicians. The IPO is the first in Saudi Arabia since state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco raised almost $30bn (Dh110bn) in December.

The firm is seeking to capitalise on the government’s plans to ramp up private sector participation in health care and the country’s demographic trends. Saudi Arabia’s population is disproportionately young and relatively unhealthy. More than a third of adults are obese and 18.5 per cent suffer from diabetes, according to World Health Organisation statistics.

Dr Al Habib, 68, established the business in 1993 after serving as chief medical officer and head of paediatrics at two government-owned hospitals in Riyadh. A graduate of King Saud University, he did his paediatrics fellowship at the Royal College of Physicians in the UK. He also invests in commercial real estate through a holding company, according to the prospectus.

Very few doctors rank among the world’s richest people. HCA Healthcare co-founder and former US Air Force flight surgeon Thomas Frist is the wealthiest with a net worth of $13.1bn, according the Bloomberg index. Biotech entrepreneur and physician Patrick Soon-Shiong has a $9.2bn fortune.

Li Shufu, chairman of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., sits for a Bloomberg Television interview on the sidelines of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China, on Thursday, March 8, 2018. Collaboration isn't a precondition for Geely founder Li to acquire a stake in Daimler AG because the Chinese billionaire sees the German luxury-car maker as a top investment -- even without synergies with his own automaking group. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Li Shufu

The Chinese owner of Volvo Cars announced it will become the country’s first private company to build satellites as billionaire Li Shufu follows Elon Musk into space.

Mr Li’s Geely Holding Group started building a production-and-testing centre in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, on Tuesday, it said in a statement. Geely plans to begin the launch of commercial low-orbit satellites by the end of the year, the Hangzhou-based company said.

Mr Li, 56, is betting his satellites will give Geely an edge in the burgeoning driverless-car industry and provide more accurate navigation systems that can pinpoint locations by the centimetre, not metres. The move also reflects the growing ambitions of one of the car industry’s most acquisitive tycoons — besides Volvo, Geely has bought Lotus Cars and become the biggest shareholder of Daimler.

“Geely must take the initiative to embrace change, develop through innovation, find new synergies online and offline, and co-operate with global partners to become a global technology leader,” Mr Li said in the statement.

Mr Li has been extending his empire beyond cars by diving into new areas. Geely has invested in the VoloCity air taxi to launch it commercially within the next three years, and the company agreed in 2018 with state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation to build supersonic trains using home-grown technology.

Mr Li has a net worth of $14.1bn, according to Forbes.

2A80GTT Thomas Kirk Kristiansen. Alamy

Thomas Kristiansen

Lego said Thomas Kristiansen — the fourth generation of the billionaire family that owns Europe’s largest toymaker — has taken over as its chairman.

Mr Kristiansen is replacing Jorgen Knudstorp, a former chief executive at the company who will continue as a member of the board and develop the brand, Lego said on Wednesday.

The change was announced as Lego reported 3 per cent growth in profit last year, bringing net income to 8.31bn kroner (Dh3.29bn). Revenue rose 6 per cent to 38.5bn kroner, a record.

Thomas Kristiansen, 41, is one of three children of Kjeld Kristiansen, the 72-year-old grandson of Lego’s founder. Since 2016, Kjeld Kristiansen has handed over more responsibilities to his only son.

The elder Kristiansen has already handed over a large chunk of his wealth to his three children, who own about $4.3bn each, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Mr Knudstorp was the architect of Lego’s turnaround last decade. The former McKinsey consultant simplified the company’s products and managed to end years of losses to create the world’s most profitable toymaker. But in the final years of his tenure as chief executive, Lego reported a decline in revenue and profit after years of rapid expansion resulted in a bloated cost base.

On Wednesday, Lego said its 2019 results were helped by sales growing in “single digits” in the Americas and western Europe, while growth in China was in “strong double-digits”.

“We outperformed the toy industry and grew consumer sales and market share in all our largest markets,” chief executive Niels Christiansen said in the statement.

Lego has targeted China as its main strategic growth market and now has 140 retail stores in the country. During 2020, Lego plans to open an additional 80 stores in 20 new Chinese cities.

For 2020, Lego expects “single-digit growth” at a pace exceeding the rest of the toy market. The performance will be driven by “product innovation, growth in established and strategic markets, such as China”. The toymaker didn’t mention any impact from the coronavirus.

Billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, chairman of Thai Beverage Pcl, speaks with guests as he attends a charity event in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. Charoen is Thailand’s richest man with a $12.7 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He controls an empire whose businesses span industries from beer to property development. Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi

Thailand’s richest man Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, through his recently listed property unit Asset World Corporation, has his sights on building the nation’s tallest skyscraper.

Details are scant — no official height has been set and completion isn’t expected until 2025 — but the tower, at the centre of another $948 million project on the banks of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river, is emblematic of Asset World’s aggressive growth strategy.

“It embodies what our company aims to do — set new trends and lift the benchmark,” said Asset World’s chief executive and Mr Sirivadhanabhakdi's daughter, Wallapa Traisorat. The skyscraper will be a “new landmark” and draw more visitors to Thailand, she said.

Its planned construction, however, comes at a difficult time for the Southeast Asian nation’s property and tourism markets. Bangkok is facing an apartment glut, with 100,000 empty units and more to come. And Chinese investors, who for years have propped up the real estate sector, are staying away because of the travel curbs and economic havoc caused by the coronavirus.

Tourism in Thailand, meanwhile, which comprises around 20 per cent of gross domestic product, is also taking a hit because of the outbreak.

Asset World is partnering with Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the firm behind the world’s tallest building, the 830-metre-high Burj Khalifa. The skyscraper will surpass Thailand’s current record, the Magnolias Waterfront Residences at IconSiam, which stands at 318 metres and which was completed in 2018.

Asset World is separately in talks with three hotel chains for possible partnerships and already works with brands including Marriott and Hilton, Ms Traisorat said.

The group has a number of other ambitious plans in the wings, too. It aims to build Thailand’s biggest convention hotel by the beach in Pattaya on Thailand’s east coast and is set to become the nation’s largest hotel owner by 2025 with more than 4,000 rooms in the pipeline. The group added $3bn to Mr Sirivadhanabhakdi's fortune when it listed in Bangkok in October.

Mr Sirivadhanabhakdi also owns Thai Beverage, privately held property firm TCC Land, and Singapore beverage and property giant Fraser & Neave. He has a net worth of $14.1bn, according to Forbes.