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No longer S’pore’s richest man: Sea co-founder Forrest Li lost almost US$18B in stock crash

forrest li sea

In September last year, Forrest Li, the co-founder of Sea — the parent company of Shopee — overtook Li Xiting to become Singapore’s richest man with a net worth of US$20.2 billion.

He retained that status till just a few months ago with his US$22 billion fortune. Now, he no longer makes the cut to be the top 500 richest people in the world.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, his net worth is now valued at only US$4.7 billion.

He has emerged as one of the biggest losers from a huge market crash. Additionally, the shutdown of its main e-commerce operation in India and disappointing earnings have tanked the company’s American depository receipts more than 80 per cent from a peak in October.

At one point, Sea was touted as Southeast Asia’s most valuable company, as it deepens its foray in fintech beyond gaming and e-commerce.

shopee sea ltd
Shopee, the e-commerce arm of Sea Ltd / Image Credit: Reuters

The upcoming year will pose several challenges for the company. Like other tech companies that soared when the COVID-19 pandemic began, Sea is now facing difficulties due to an increase in interest rates as well as the tensions due to the war in Ukraine.

Sea is also facing renewed competition from rival businesses, including Alibaba, and more people are shifting from online to offline purchases as pandemic restrictions are eased.

Sea is scheduled to report its first-quarter earnings soon, and is expected to post a record loss of more than US$740 million, according to the average analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg.

Sea’s net loss had already widened in the final three months of last year as the firm aggressively expanded.

Sea’s valuation collapse prompted Li to reach out to his employees earlier in March. In a 900-word internal memo, he told them not to fear and that while the drop is painful, “this is short-term pain that we have to endure to truly maximise our long-term potential”.

Many tech entrepreneurs have also lost their fortunes

Besides Li, many tech entrepreneurs who saw their wealth rise on the back of the pandemic-induced growth are being hit hard by the market selloff.

Eric Yuan, chief executive officer of Zoom Video Communications, has lost US$4.4 billion of wealth this year, while the fortune of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the world’s second-richest person, is down almost US$58 billion.

(From left to right) Forrest Li, Gang Ye and David Chen / Image Credit: Sea

The company’s other two co-founders are also not spared. Gang Ye has lost US$4.3 billion in wealth this year, while David Chen is no longer a billionaire. 

Previously, all three of the founders, who hail from China, were featured on the top half of Forbes’ Singapore’s Richest 2021 list.

Featured Image Credit: Sea Ltd

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