Shares of Manila-based Wilcon have surged 41% this year, outpacing the 2.8% advance for the 262-company Philippine Stock Exchange. That has vaulted Belo into the ranks of the world’s billionaires. He and his family control two-thirds of Wilcon, giving him a net worth of about $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Bloomberg’s estimate is “most likely conservative” because it’s only based on information that’s publicly available, said Jean Alger, Wilcon’s head of investor relations, who declined to elaborate on Belo’s wealth.

Plumbing Fixtures

Wilcon targets middle- to high-income homeowners selling everything from plumbing fixtures to tiles and faucets. The home-improvement chain’s sales climbed 18% to 11.8 billion pesos in the first half of the year, boosting the company’s expansion plans. It expects to have 65 stores next year and 100 by 2025.

After graduating from high school, Belo studied engineering at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila while working evenings at a construction-supply company partially owned by his father. In 1977, he finally opened his own store in a space no bigger than one-bedroom apartment and worked for decades to build a company that is now the leading retailer in the Philippines’ home-improvement market.

In an interview with Bloomberg last year, he said he was undaunted by Ikea’s plan to open its first store in the country in 2020.

“When you want to build a house, you don’t go to Ikea, you go to Wilcon,” he said.

While Belo still goes to the office five days a week, he now oversees the business as chairman emeritus while leaving day-to-day operations to his three children. That’s given him “more time to relax,” he said, and perhaps devote more time to other pursuits, like raising crocodiles.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News. 

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