The Fascinating United Overseas Business Empire

The Wee Family, led by their patriach Dr. Wee Cho Yaw, is the fourth richest family in Singapore according to business publication Forbes. Although famous for being one of the founders of United Overseas Bank (SGX: U11), the United Overseas empire extends much further than just banking. Here are some of the listed companies associated with the Wee family.

Financial institutions

Besides being one of the largest companies in Singapore, United Overseas Bank is also one of the largest banks in the region. Having been founded since 1935, the bank has grown both organically and through mergers and acquisitions. Currently, UOB has offices in more than 19 countries around the world. It is also the major shareholder of two other Singapore-listed companies, United Overseas Insurance (SGX: U13) and UOB-Kay Hian Holdings (SGX: U10). The former’s the insurance arm for UOB while the latter runs a stock market brokerage business. Both companies are small in size compared to UOB, and have managed to leverage the vast business network that UOB has to grow their own businesses.

Property groups

The main property development and investment vehicle for the United Overseas brand is the UOL Group (SGX: U14). The company is involved in both local and international property development and investments. It currently owns 43.4% of United Industrial Corp (SGX: U06) which in turn owns almost four-fifths of Singapore Land (SGX: S30). Both Singapore Land and UIC are also real estate plays.

That’s not all there is to UOL Group however. The company’s also involved with the hospitality side of the real estate business through its 81.6%-owned subsidiary Pan Pacific Hotels Group (SGX: H49). Pan Pacific owns and manages two major hotel brands, Pan Pacific and Park Royal, and has more than 12,000 rooms around the world.

Investment holdings

Haw Par Corp (SGX: H02) has a history that started in the 1800’s. From Rangoon, in what’s known in current times as Yangon, Mr. Aw Chu Kin started his Traditional Chinese Medical practice. His two sons, the Haw Par brothers, eventually expanded the empire and made known internationally, the famous Tiger Balm (a medicinal balm) and Haw Par Villa (a theme park that focuses on traditional Chinese folklore).

Today, Haw Par Corp is an investment holding company that’s majority owned by the Wee family. Although the company still owns the Tiger Balm brand and operates the aquarium Underwater World Singapore in Sentosa, the bulk of Haw Par Corp’s valuable assets come from three blocks of large investment holdings in UOB, UOL and UIC.

Even though it’s likely that the Wee Family would have other investments outside of these listed entities, a look at the sprawling group of companies under the United Overseas banner helps give us a sense of what it takes to become “just” the fourth richest family in Singapore.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Stanley Lim owns United Overseas Insurance.