VIETNAM NEWS: Vietnam’s first Female Billionaire

Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, VietJet Aviation CEO
Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, VietJet Aviation CEO

Vietnamese Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao made her first million at 21 trading fax machines and latex rubber. Almost a quarter of a century later, she’s poised to become Southeast Asia’s first self-made woman billionaire known for putting bikini-clad models on her VietJet Aviation Joint Stock Co. planes and calendars.

With the initial public offering of Vietnam’s only privately-owned airline, Thao is set to have a net worth exceeding $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making her the country’s first woman billionaire. The majority of her wealth is derived from her stake in VietJet and her holdings in Dragon City, a 65-hectare real estate development in Ho Chi Minh City.

“I’ve never sat down and calculated my assets,” Thao, 45, said in an interview. “I’m just focused on how to boost the company’s growth, how to increase the average salary for my employees, how to lead the airline to gain more market share and make it number one.”

Thao said she’s planning for VietJet to hold its IPO as early as within the next three months, where it may sell as much as a 30 percent stake. The carrier is aiming to seek a valuation of more than $1 billion, according to two people with knowledge of the plan, who asked not to be named because the information is private. Thao, who founded the airline, owns 95 percent of the company, according to two people familiar with the shareholding structure.