Mr Goh Cheng Liang, founder of Nippon Paint South-East Asia Group (Nipsea), is the Republic’s richest man with a US$8.2 billion (S$10.8 billion) fortune, according to a Bloomberg report published on Monday (Jan 19).

Mr Goh, 87, and Osaka-based Nippon Paint Holdings jointly own Nipsea, with the billionaire recently boosting his stake in Nippon Paint to 39 per cent, making him the largest shareholder in Nipsea, Bloomberg reported. His stake in the joint venture is held through his Singapore-based investment company, Wuthelam Holdings.

Mr Goh set up his first paint shop in 1955 in Singapore, and later became a distributor for Nippon Paint. In 1962, the Japanese company established a paint manufacturing plant in the city-state in 1962, the report said.

Nipsea now operates in 15 Asian countries and is Asia’s biggest paintmaker. His son Goh Hup Jin, 61, has headed the company since the 1980s, according to Bloomberg.

Mr Goh’s wealth puts him ahead of Mr Wee Cho Yaw, the largest shareholder of Singapore’s United Overseas Bank and the city’s second richest with a US$6.9 billion fortune. Mdm Tan Kim Choo, the widow of late property tycoon Ng Teng Fong, follows with a US$4.9 billion fortune. Her sons Philip and Robert Ng have fortunes of US$4.6 billion and US$4.5 billion, respectively, the report said.

Mr Goh also has a passion for luxury boats. His collection includes the 61m superyacht White Rabbit Echo, according to a Wuthelam company newsletter.

The family’s otherwise low profile contrasts with the reach of the family’s business empire, whose expansion has been powered by a focus on decorative paints and Nipsea’s ability to tailor products to different markets, according to Frost & Sullivan’s Tyagarajan.

“Compared to the banking industry or the telecommunications industry, the paint industry isn’t seen as glamorous,” Mr Tyagarajan said. “But even with strong competition, Nipsea has done very well for itself.”

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