Vietnamese billionaire Pham Nhat Vuong has gotten a lot richer over the past month.
VinFast Auto stock has skyrocketed since its public debut, and Vuong owns 99% of the company.
Here’s how Pham Nhat Vuong built his more than $60 billion fortune.
The rollercoaster ride in VinFast Auto stock has put a spotlight on the electric vehicle maker’s founder and chairman, Pham Nhat Vuong.
VinFast went public via a SPAC IPO earlier this month, and its stock price swiftly soared 830% from $10 per share to a record high of $93.
Despite selling only 24,000 vehicles last year, VinFast was worth nearly $200 billion at its peak on Monday, briefly making it the world’s third largest automaker as measured by market valuation.
And because Vuong, 55, owns a whopping 99% of the Vietnam-based electric vehicle maker, his fortune has soared, on paper at least. Since its peak, shares of VinFast are down 70%, giving the company a $62 billion market valuation.
Even with the sharp decline in VinFast stock, that still gives Vuong a total net worth of more than $60 billion. He was already a billionaire before VinFast went public, with various estimates of his net worth between $4 billion and $7 billion.
Before becoming an EV mogul, Vuong started with food.
Selling noodles in Ukraine
He graduated from the Moscow Geological Prospecting Institute in Russia in 1993. Sensing opportunity in the post-Soviet Union world, Vuong moved to Kharkiv, Ukraine, borrowed $10,000 from friends and family, and opened up a Vietnamese restaurant.
While the restaurant floundered, he found near instant success in making and selling instant noodles, which were a new concept in Ukraine and proved to be incredibly popular from the start.
“Ukrainians were very poor, and very hungry,” Vuong said in an interview with Forbes in 2013.
He then ditched his restaurant and instead focused on building up his noodle business. He founded Technocom, expanded his dried foods production, and sold instant noodles in Ukraine under the Mivina brand name.
By the time Vuong sold Technocom to Nestle in 2010 for $150 million, the company had reached annual revenues of more than $100 million.
Vuong sees opportunity in Vietnam
After striking success in Ukraine, he set his eyes on his home country. Vuong noticed that Vietnam was undergoing a similar shift to Ukraine, as its economy transitioned from a state-run system to a more markets-based economy in the late 1990s.
He started to funnel his profits from his Ukrainian noodle business into real estate development projects in Vietnam.
And he hit the jackpot.
Vuong’s first real estate venture was an undeveloped island just off the coast of Vietnam. There, he helped develop the luxury Vinpearl Resort that initially had 225 rooms. Vuong eventually added another 260 rooms to Vinpearl, along with a two-mile cable car that connected the island to the mainland. Business boomed and the island has since become a hot spot for luxury resorts, and Vuong got in on the ground floor.
He further diversified his real estate holdings by developing office towers, luxury townships, and shopping malls in Hanoi. Vuong has since consolidated most of his assets into the company Vingroup, which is a conglomerate that has exposure to the healthcare, entertainment, and technology industries, among others.
In 2013, Vuong became Vietnam’s first billionaire, according to Forbes. Vingroup generated $5.4 billion in revenue and $83 million in profits in 2022.
Vuong’s VinFast ambitions
With Vuong’s fortune built, he is now focusing his efforts on owning a slice of the electric mobility market with VinFast. The company manufactures and sells electric scooters and cars, and it has an ambitious goal to break into the US market.
VinFast recently broke ground on a $4 billion manufacturing plant in North Carolina, and Vuong has pledged his resources to making the company a success.
“Our ultimate goal is to create an international brand,” he told Bloomberg in 2019. Vuong vowed in April to provide Vinfast with $2.5 billion in capital to help fuel its growth.
“Whatever VinFast needs, Vingroup always supports,” VinFast CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy told the Financial Times before it went public.
But the company has a lot of work to do. VinFast expects to sell about 50,000 electric vehicles in America this year, but the early reviews of their first US models were not great. Meanwhile, VinFast is still unprofitable after six years in business
Still, Vuong is determined.
“It will be a very difficult road, and we will have to put in a lot of effort. But there’s only one road ahead,” he said in 2019.
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