Pham Nhat Vuong: Vietnam’s Donald Trump

Not satisfied with a business empire that covers just about everything in his native Vietnam, property mogul Pham Nhat Vuong is making a move into the electric car business.

Pham Nhat Vuong © Getty Images

Pham Nhat Vuong © Getty Images

There was a sinking feeling in Hanoi earlier this month when Vietnam's richest man, Pham Nhat Vuong, entered the electric-car race. Shares in his sprawling conglomerate, Vingroup, fell 2% on news that Vuong had become the latest billionaire to be seduced by this most 21st century of vanity projects and the entire benchmark VN index drooped in sympathy.

Vuong, 51, is "so intent on exporting electric vehicles to the lucrative American market in 2021" (not to mention Europe and Russia) that he's ploughing $2bn of his $9bn fortune into the new VinFast venture, notes Bloomberg. The rest will come from Vingroup. "Our ultimate goal is to create an international brand," he says a challenge that has so far eluded him despite an eventful international business career. VinFast's "homegrown cars" certainly face an uphill struggle to succeed overseas: "Many Chinese start-ups, backed by billions in funding, have bet on the prospects for EVs [electric vehicles] in the world's biggest market, but few are making money." Even in Vietnam, Vuong faces formidable competition from established foreign players such as Toyota, Ford andHyundai.

The land of Vin-everything

Vuong's ascent "personifies the post-Vietnam War story of this nation", says Forbes. Born in 1968 in Hanoi, his father served in the North Vietnamese air defence force and his mother ran a pavement tea-stand. The Communist North "won the war and united the country", but "lost the economic battle". Growing up in poverty, Vuong "escaped his circumstances with books". Something of a maths prodigy, he won a scholarship to study economics at the Moscow Geological Prospecting Institute. The timing of his 1993 graduation was fateful: the Soviet Union had collapsed and back at home Vietnam was experimenting with its own "Doi Moi" market-based reforms.

Post-Soviet opportunities

For years, Vuong funnelled money from his noodle empire back to Vietnam, increasingly targeting property. He began with a luxury resort, then moved into commercial property in Hanoi with such aggression that in the early years of the decade he was often described as "the Vietnamese Donald Trump". Unlike Trump, Vuong is considered "modest and down-to-earth", says The Independent. Don't let that fool you. He often plays football for Vingroup as a striker. "Attacking is better than defending," he says. And that applies toeverything.

Recommended

Changpeng Zhao: Binance founder undaunted by the crypto winter
Bitcoin & crypto

Changpeng Zhao: Binance founder undaunted by the crypto winter

Changpeng Zhao, the founder of controversial cryptocurrency exchange Binance, has been severely battered by carnage in the sector. But the future is b…
3 Jul 2022
Vitalik Buterin: the man who changed cryptocurrencies
People

Vitalik Buterin: the man who changed cryptocurrencies

Maths prodigy Vitalik Buterin became fascinated by bitcoin as a teenager. Now 28, he is worshipped as a near deity by crypto-enthusiasts.
26 Jun 2022
Chris Xu: the retailer with a cult following
People

Chris Xu: the retailer with a cult following

Chris Xu was born to poor farmers in the Shandong province of China. Today he leads a mysterious upstart that is unnerving established fast-fashion re…
21 Jun 2022
Hock Tan: the tech sector’s supreme dealmaker
People

Hock Tan: the tech sector’s supreme dealmaker

Broadcom’s boss Hock Tan has acquired a reputation as the industry’s prime dealmaker – a renown that suffered a blow under Donald Trump. Now he has an…
13 Jun 2022

Most Popular

Five dividend stocks to beat inflation
Share tips

Five dividend stocks to beat inflation

During periods of high inflation, dividend stocks tend to do better than the wider market. Here, Rupert Hargreaves pick five dividend stocks for incom…
30 Jun 2022
Don’t try to time the bottom – start buying good companies now
Investment strategy

Don’t try to time the bottom – start buying good companies now

Markets are having a rough time, so you may be tempted to wait to try to call the bottom and pick up some bargains. But that would be a mistake, says …
1 Jul 2022
UK house prices are definitely cooling off – but are they heading for a fall?
House prices

UK house prices are definitely cooling off – but are they heading for a fall?

UK house prices hit a fresh high in June, but as interest rates start to rise, the market is cooling John Stepek assesses just how much of an effect h…
30 Jun 2022