Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, CEO of Vietnamese budget airline VietJet Air, has been named among the world’s most powerful women in 2016 by Forbes magazine.
Forbes has just released the list of 100 women that it calls “the smartest and toughest,” including business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, philanthropists and CEOs.
Thao, 46, is among the 20 new names joining this year’s list. According to Forbes, China’s Zhou Qunfei and Thao, who rank No.61 and 62, respectively, are two of the women from this group who are building their own fortunes and are reaping the rewards.
"Zhou, who boasts a net worth of US$8.3 billion, became the world’s richest female tech founder after the March 2015 IPO of her company, Lens Technology , which manufactures glass covers for phones and tablets. If all goes well, the IPO of Thao’s airline, VietJet, which features bikini-clad stewardesses on some flights, will make her a billionaire," according to Forbes.
Thao cofounded and is a major shareholder in Sovico, which owns the commercial HD Bank and international budget airline VietJet, both of which she runs.
HD Bank merged with Dai A Bank in 2014 and is now among the biggest joint-stock commercial banks in Vietnam, with total assets of nearly $5 billion, 10,000 employees and 225 branches and offices. Last year it bought Société Générale Viet Finance, a consumer-finance company owned by France's Société Générale.
Since its launch in 2011 VietJet Air, which is planning an IPO, has grown its fleet to 31 aircraft and carried 20 million passengers.
It has around 40 percent share of Vietnam's domestic market and will probably surpass Vietnam Airlines this year as the largest domestic carrier, according to a January report of the CAPA Centre for Aviation.
Educated in Russia in the 1990s, Thao also owns five-star hotels and resorts in Vietnam. Her interests extend to property development, with a $1 billion mixed-use project called Dragon City on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, number one for six years running, continues to head the world’s most powerful women list, followed close behind, again, by US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton; Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen; philanthropist Melinda Gates; and General Motors CEO Mary Barra.