Pham Nhat Vuong has become the first Vietnamese billionaire to enter the list of world’s richest individuals, with total assets of US$1.5 billion  as estimated in March 2013.

Pham ranks 974th in the list voted by Forbes, with his  US$1.5 billion  billionaireworth based largely on the 53 percent stake he owns (both indirectly and directly) in Vingroup, a real estate development firm.

Born in Hanoi in 1968,  Pham started his career in Ukraine by producing instant noodles, eventually styling himself as Ukraine’s processed-food king.

By 2010, when Pham sold the company for an estimated US$150 million to Nestle, his noodle company, Technocom, had revenues of US$100 million.

This highly unconventional post-Soviet success story had a twist. For years Pham had been gradually funneling the funds from his Ukrainian noodle empire into real estate projects back in his homeland.

In Vietnam, Pham’s decision to invest in real estate projects resulted  in the 225-room, deluxe Vinpearl Resort Nha Trang. Here, again, Pham found quick success. The next year he introduced Vincom Center Ba Trieu, the first commercial tower complex in Hanoi. Three years later he added 260 more rooms to Vinpearl, along with a 2-mile cable car connecting the island to the mainland.

Pham followed this with several high-end townships in Hanoi, including Vincom Village, a luxury development with hundreds of villas. Vincom, comprising Pham’s commercial and residential real estate interests, went public in 2007, while he maintained Vinpearl as a separate company for his luxury resort business.

Last year Pham merged the two companies to create Vingroup, which is now the fifth most valuable company on the Vietnamese stock exchange.