The ‘usual suspects’ still the richest in the country

By FARA AISYAH / Graphic by TMR

The slower economic growth might have affected their businesses, but Malaysia’s richest tycoons have remained resilient, hanging on to their rankings on the Forbes rich list.

Throughout 2018, their companies’ performance could have seen some negative impacts, as the overall country’s stock market benchmark, the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI, lost 8% in the past 12 months.

The lacklustre ringgit slipping 3% against the US dollar was also a factor, while the tumultuous period in the country’s politics following the historic 14th General Election also had a significant impact on various industries.

According to the 2019 Forbes Malaysia Rich List, 30 Malaysian tycoons saw their wealth shrink, while only 11 enjoyed gains.

Forbes said the minimum net worth to make the list this year is US$250 million (RM1.02 billion), down from US$300 million last year.

1. Tan Sri Robert Kuok

Tycoon Kuok retains his No 1 spot with a net worth of US$12.8 billion despite a fall in his wealth by US$2 billion.

The 95-year-old controls businesses across Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong — including Wilmar International Ltd, the world’s largest palm oil- based edible oil trader.

The billionaire, who now resides in Hong Kong, also owns stakes in Malaysia-based conglomerate PPB Group Bhd, Hong Kong-based logistics services provider Kerry Logistics Network Ltd, Kerry Properties Ltd, Shangri-La Asia Ltd and Sydney-based coal producer Whitehaven Coal Ltd.

The government appointed Kuok to the Council of Eminent Persons along with Tun Daim Zainuddin, Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican and Jomo Kwame Sundaram in May last year.

2. Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan

The 75-year-old has added US$2.2 billion to his wealth and remains at No 2 with a net worth of US$9.4 billion.

His fortune is mainly derived from the assets he controls through the Hong Leong Group.

Among its most valuable assets are stakes in Guoco Group Ltd, Hong Leong Financial Group Bhd and Hong Leong Bank Bhd.

Other stakes held include Southern Steel Bhd, investment company Hong Leong Industries Bhd, and cooking oil and flour maker Lam Soon (Hong Kong) Ltd.

3. Tan Sri Dr Teh Hong Piow

The founder of Public Bank Bhd gained US$700 million, rising one spot to No 3 this year with a net worth of US$6.7 billion, according to the Forbes ranking.

The 88-year-old owns a more than 22% stake in the bank, and a more than 44% stake in LPI Capital Bhd.

Teh has officially retired from his post as Public Bank’s non-executive chairman on Jan 1, but remains as an advisor who provides guidance that supports the continued growth of the company.

4. Tan Sri Ananda T Krishnan

Ananda remains on the top five list at No 4 with an equity worth of US$6.2 billion. His net worth is down by US$900 million as shares in his energy service provider, Bumi Armada Bhd, fell by 78% in the year up to March 1 due to a challenging operating environment and financial issues.

Most of the 80-year-old’s wealth is derived from his stake in telco service provider Maxis Bhd. He also controls about a 41% stake in Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd.

Ananda also owns a 33% stake in Indian mobile-phone company Aircel Ltd through Maxis.

The value of his investment in Aircel (US$360 million) was removed from the net worth calculation on March 1, 2018, following the company’s move to file for bankruptcy protection from creditors, Forbes stated.

5. Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng

Lee of IOI Corp Bhd and IOI Properties Group Bhd takes the fifth spot on the list, as his wealth fell by US$200 million to US$5.4 billion.

The main contributor to Lee’s wealth remains his stake in palm oil producer IOI Corp.

The 79-year-old also owns about a 65% stake of IOI Properties Bhd directly and through two holding companies, Vertical Capacity Sdn Bhd and Summervest Sdn Bhd, along with family members.

The remaining five richest Malaysians are Tan Sri Chen Lip Keong (NagaCorp Ltd, US$5 billion), Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay (Genting Bhd, US$4.4 billion), Tan Sri Lau Cho Kun (Hap Seng Consolidated Bhd, US$3.4 billion), Tan Sri Koon Poh Keong, Koon Poh Ming and Koon Poh Weng (Press Metal Aluminium Holdings Bhd, US$2.6 billion), and Kuan Kam Hon (Hartalega Holdings Bhd, US$2.4 billion).

Meanwhile, Wong Thean Soon (No 48) suffered the biggest loss on the list in percentage terms as his net worth plunged 63% to US$280 million last year.

Shares of his company MyEG Services Bhd, which provides online access to government services, was hit after last year’s election on the perception it was linked too closely to the previous government.

Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary maintained his ranking at No 12 despite a US$200 million decline in wealth to US$1.7 billion due to the drop in value of his infrastructure- linked firms.

Newcomer Abdul Kadier Sahib enters the list for the first time at No 49 with a net worth of US$275 million.

He is a director at Serba Dinamik Holdings Bhd, an oil and gas services supplier that went public in 2017 and has seen its stock soar, Forbes stated.

Tan Sri Kua Sian Kooi of KSK Group Bhd rejoins the list at No 35 with a net worth of US$420 million, while Datuk Loh Kian Chong of Oriental Holdings Bhd returns to the list at No 45 with a net worth of US$320 million.