Billionaire property developers dominate 2018 rich list

Apartment developer Harry Triguboff is Australia's second richest person with a fortune of $12.77 billion. Photo: AAP

Apartment developer Harry Triguboff is Australia's second richest person with a fortune of $12.77 billion. Photo: AAP

Real estate developers dominated the Australian Financial Review’s 2018 rich list, comprising more than a quarter of Australia’s 200 wealthiest individuals.

Property barons dwarfed the number of rich listers from other industries, with 51 of the 200 wealthiest Australians deriving their fortunes from real estate for a combined wealth of $86.2 billion, the AFR reported.

Apartment tycoon Harry Triguboff is Australian property’s richest person, with a fortune of $12.77 billion, according to the list.

Mr Triguboff came in second overall to cardboard packaging manufacturer Visy’s executive chairman Anthony Pratt, crowned Australia’s richest person with a fortune of $12.9 billion, and ahead of mining investor Gina Rinehart, who placed third with a net worth of $12.68 billion.

The 85-year-old Triguboff founded apartment development group Meriton in 1963, with the company becoming Australia’s largest residential builder and developer with more than 75,000 residential apartments and hotel suites across Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Three of the top five richest Australians were property billionaires, with chairman and founder of Hong-Kong based Shimao Property Holdings Hui Wing Mau ranking fourth overall with a fortune of $9.09 billion, a 52.5 per cent increase on last year.

Westfield founder Frank Lowy, who recently sold the international shopping centre empire to commercial real estate giant Unibail-Rodamco for $33 billion, is Australia’s fifth richest person with a fortune of $8.42 billion.

While most of the property magnates made their money through residential real estate, Sydney hotel and restaurant owner Justin Hemmes is a notable exception.

According to the AFR, the rich list debutant has a $951 million fortune thanks to a portfolio of 70 pubs, hotels, restaurants and venues in Sydney.

“Property’s a big part of the economy. You’d expect to have it well represented on the list,” Property Council of Australia chief executive Ken Morrison told The New Daily.

“It’s a vehicle for providing for the economic fortunes not just of the rich and famous but also the average person.”

Property: Australia’s biggest industry

The property industry is Australia’s biggest industry, according to the Property Council of Australia, accounting for 13 per cent of the national GDP and contributing $202.9 billion to the economy last financial year.

The industry is also Australia’s biggest employer, the lobby group says, employing 1.4 million people in a variety of jobs ranging from building and construction to real estate and financial services – more than mining and manufacturing combined.

“Property is incredibly important to Australia’s economy, 1.4 million Australians work in the property industry and that’s an enormous economic imprint,” Mr Morrison said.

Ultra-wealthy ride high on property prices

Australia’s ultra-wealthy population increased by nine per cent in 2017, according to global real estate company Knight Frank’s 2018 wealth report, with the increase largely due to growth in property prices.

Ultra-high net worth individuals in Australia – those with net assets of $50 million or more – now number 1260 and have a combined worth of US$269 billion, according to the report.

“This growth can be attributed to significant growth in prime property prices and gains in the Australian equities market over the past year,” Knight Frank Australia’s head of residential Sarah Harding said.

“In addition, Australia is the third most-preferred global destination for the world’s ultra-high net worth individuals to emigrate.”

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