Chinese Enterprises and Tycoons are in a Money Transfer Frenzy, Singapore the Top Choice

By Jessica Mao
Jessica Mao
Jessica Mao
Jessica Mao is a writer for The Epoch Times with a focus on China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2009.
June 11, 2022Updated: June 12, 2022

A Chinese Tycoon from Fujian Province recently bought 20 units at Canninghill Piers, a luxury condominium development in Singapore. More and more Chinese tycoons are worried about leaving a large proportion of their money in mainland China and are transferring their assets abroad. Within this asset transfer fever, Singapore has become the number one safe haven of choice.

Although the Singapore government attempted to cool down its real estate market through the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD), a tax that increased the price of a property by 30 percent if purchased by a foreigner, it does not stop the interest foreign tycoons have in the country’s properties.

Lianhe Zaobao recently published an article saying that a buyer from Fujian, China, recently bought 20 units in Canninghill Piers for more than 85 million SGD (about $61.2 million).

According to people familiar with the matter, Lianhe Zaobao revealed that the mysterious buyer paid with money transferred from Indonesia. Out of the 20 units he bought, half of them were three-bedroom units priced between 3.1 million and 3.3 million SGD (about $2.25 million to $2.39 million); the other 10 units were four-bedroom units priced between $5.3 million and $5.6 million SGD (about $3.85 million to $4.07 million).

The person also said that the same buyer is considering buying 10 more units, which would make his total expenditure over 100 million SGD (about $73 million). This means that with that transaction alone, the Singapore government will be able to collect a stamp duty revenue of approximately $30 million SGD (about $21.81 million).

People working in the real estate sector told Lianhe Zaobao that many foreign tycoons choose to immigrate to Singapore due to concerns that include an unstable political and business climate in Chain, hence, foreigners’ property transactions could be higher than the official data the government published.

Chinese Tycoons the new Singapore Immigrants

For the past few decades, Singapore has been seen as an attractive place for entrepreneurs and the middle-class from countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. But the wealth landscape has ben reshaped with an intruding new force of China’s super rich immigrating there in the last decade.

In Forbes’ 36th annual World Billionaires List, published in April this year, Li Xiting, founder and chairman of Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics, became the richest man in Singapore with a net worth of $16.5 billion.

Li Xiting, 71, a naturalised Singapore citizen, was born into an ordinary family in Anhui Province in China and graduated from the China University of Technology. At the age of 40, Li went into business in Shenzhen in 1991 and co-founded Mindray with several colleagues from Shenzhen Anke High-tech Co., Ltd. Mindray, headquartered in Shenzhen, is China’s largest medical equipment manufacturer.

Four of the top 10 richest Singaporeans are Chinese immigrants, according to Forbes’ list. Namely Zhang Yong, founder and CEO of Haidilao, a hotpot restaurant company. Zhang ranked 6th with a net worth of $6 billion (as of June 9, 2022).

Zhang wasranked the richest man in Singapore in 2019 with a net worth of 13.8 billion then. As the “new elite” in Singapore, he disrupted the previous social elite circle lead by those with “old money.” Before Zhang, brothers Robert and Philip Ng, of the real estate developer Far East Organization, were ranked the richest in Singapore for 10 years.

Ranking 7th is Forrest Li Xiaodong, of Sea Limited, an online gaming firm and e-commerce firm. Sea’s co-founder and COO Gang Ye is ranked 10th, with a net worth of $2.8 billion (as of June 9, 2022). Sea’s 3 main subsidiaries focus on gaming, e-commerce and digital payments, and financial services companies Garena, Shopee, and SeaMoney.

Other Chinese Singaporeans on the list include Tao Zhao, founder of Shandong Buchang Pharma, a pharmaceutical company, who ranked 13th. And Zhong Sheng Jian, founder, chairman, and CEO of Yanlord Land Group, a real estate developer, ranked 20th with a net worth of $1.5 billion (as of 9th June 2022).

An increasing number of affluent Chinese are setting up family offices in Singapore.

Firms in Singapore are helping affluent Chinese transfer assets through family offices.

A family office is a privately held company that handles investment management and wealth management for a wealthy family. In Singapore, it costs at least $10 million SGD (approximately $7.26 million) to set up a family office.
In the past, the first choice of the rich was Hong Kong, but now Singapore seems to be more popular.

According to data from the Economic Development Board, the number of Singapore family offices increased fivefold from 2017 to 2019. This rate rose further during the pandemic, at the end of 2020, Singapore had 400 Single Family Offices, and the number continues to increase.

The family offices’ funds inflow to Singapore and sources are kept private by the Singapore government.

Caixin Media published an article on June 6, saying the Monetary Authority of Singapore has replied to Caixin that they do not have authoritative data on the number of single family offices and capital inflow.

A wealth management veteran in Singapore told Caixin Media that “this time, Singapore wins so easily.”

Mainland Firms Also Choose Singapore

Apart from tycoons looking for safe havens, some mainland Chinese businessmen, due to reasons such as development, saturated Chinese markets, or “involution” (neijuan), choose to expand their operations in Southeast Asia and many choose to headquarter in Singapore.

Top gaming firms Tencent, ByteDance, miHoYo, and Yoozoo Games have either headquartered or set up a branch in Singapore.

Some technology enterprises also choose to expand abroad in response to the growing geopolitical risks and supply chain issues. Someone familiar with the matter told Caixin Media that a Shanghai semiconductor company with an annual sales revenue of $1 billion is planning to set up a new structure in Singapore.

Furthermore, with the Chinese Communist Party’s increasing regulations on cryptocurrency, some blockchain professionals choose to move to Singapore.

The founding partners of Boyu Capital Investment Management, a private equity firm, Sean Tong and Zixin Zhang immigrated to Singapore and moved some of the firm’s operations from the Hong Kong headquarters to Singapore. The firm was founded by Alvin Jiang, a grandson of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin.

People familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that Boyu started its move to Singapore because it worried that Jiang’s political influence would fall. In comparison to Hong Kong, the Singapore branch would be their safe haven to escape the political chaos within the Chinese Communist Party.