No. 14: Formosa Chemical & Fibre
He's Asia's oldest billionaire. At the age of 88, the animated Y.C. Wang, chairman and CEO of Formosa Plastics Group and hands-on boss of Formosa Chemical & Fibre Corp., is still calling the shots at a time when most of his contemporaries have long retired.
Founded by Wang in 1965, the chemicals-and-fiber company concentrated at first on nylon and other textiles. But it has since moved on to the richer game of producing resins, industrial solvents made from xylenes, and other materials such as styrene, used to make rubber. Now, Formosa is one of the biggest petrochemical players in Asia. And its move away from fabrics has paid off handsomely: The outfit boasted revenues of $4.6 billion in 2004, with profits up 133% year-on-year, to $1.3 billion.
So far, Formosa has been able to pass on to customers the increased cost of the oil it uses. Indeed, the Wang family has benefited from the runup in energy prices. That's because it also controls Formosa Petrochem; Nanya Plastics, the island's only privately owned oil refinery; and filling stations through a subsidiary, Formosa Oil.
Given Wang's age, some investors worry about the lack of a clear succession plan. Whoever eventually takes over Formosa will probably continue to shift output to mainland China. But by all accounts, Wang plans to be around for a while longer.