Economic environment takes a heavy toll

Las Vegas gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson made the headlines recently with the massive fall in his company's share price and its attendant impact on his personal fortune, reducing his net worth by billions. This week the Macau Daily Times reports a similar decline in the finances of Macau casino tycoon Dr. Stanley Ho and his firm Sociedade de Jogos de Macau.

The newspaper reports that Ho has lost 89 percent of his fortune, now has 'only' around eight billion patacas and is listed as the lowest ranking billionaire in Hong Kong in the American magazine Forbes.

After ranking fifth in the list early last year with 72 billion patacas, Ho's estate now corresponds to a modest 19th place among the 40 richest men in the city. Top spot on the list goes to Li Ka-Shing, a real estate and telecommunications businessman.

But even Li Ka-Shing could not avoid the global financial crisis and saw half his fortune decline to 129,6 billion patacas. The Kwok family, which owns Sun Hung Properties, remained in second position, but lost 55 percent of its financial clout, equivalent to a total of 86,4 million patacas.

It's all relative, but the eight billion patacas "entry" barrier required in 2008 to get on the richest list has now gone down to a mere 3,8 million patacas!

UPDATE: Dr. Ho was quick to respond to the report that he had lost much of his personal fortune, ridiculing the notion and insisting rather obliquely that his casinos were "printing money."

"Our casinos are the equivalent of printing money," said Ho. "We are printing every day, how could we be getting poor?" he commented to the South China Morning Post. "I suppose I should thank them (Forbes) for this, since now when you ask me to give donations, I don't have to donate so much," he scoffed.

"Those who want to kidnap me also don't need to think about it any more. I have no money."

The nephew of one of Asia's first tycoons, Ho made his first fortune smuggling luxury goods across the Chinese border from Macau during World War II, before securing the only gaming licence in the then-Portuguese colony in 1962. He went on to run transport businesses and a racetrack, making him one of Asia's richest men.

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