Slowing economy, Covid-19 hit Malaysia’s richest wealth

by DASHVEENJIT KAUR/ pic by TMR FILE

WEAKER ringgit and a nearly 10% decline in the country’s benchmark stock index have impacted Malaysia’s 50 richest’s wealth for the second consecutive year, according to Forbes Asia.

Their collective net worth of US$79 billion (RM330 billion) is down 7% from a year ago.

Tan Sri Robert Kuok Hock Nien remains the richest in the country, a position he has held for over two decades, with a net worth of US$11.5 billion.

According to the 2020 Forbes Malaysia rich list, Kuok is among four listees whose wealth shrank by more than US$1 billion in the past year.

The hardest-hit in dollar terms was banking tycoon Tan Sri Dr Teh Hong Piow, with a net worth of US$4.85 billion, who saw his fortune buffeted by headwinds in Malaysia’s banking industry, slipping two spots from third last year.

The founder of Public Bank Bhd saw US$1.85 billion being shaved off his wealth since the last list as shares in the country’s second-largest bank by market value declined by roughly 30%.

In addition to Kuok and Teh, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay at the seventh spot with US$3.2 billion and Tan Sri Lau Cho Kun at 10th with US$2.3 billion, also saw their wealth decline by more than US$1 billion as their fortunes fell by US$1.2 billion and US$1.1 billion respectively.

Retaining his spot on the list at No 2 is Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan of Hong Leong Group Bhd, who added US$300 million to his fortune of US$9.7 billion.

Tan Sri T Ananda Krishnan of Maxis Bhd takes the third spot with a net worth of US$5.9 billion (RM24.66 billion), down US$300 million (RM1.254 billion) from the year before.

AirAsia Group Bhd’s Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes at the 41st spot and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun (43) saw more than a third of their fortunes dropping to US$335 million and US$315 million respectively, due to the coronavirus onset curtailing air travel.

Another blow to their fortunes came in early February after a UK court ruling implicated AirAsia and unnamed executives in an Airbus bribery case.

AirAsia has denied all allegations of wrongdoing and said it is investigating the matter, while both Tony and Kamarudin had relinquished their positions temporarily.

In total, 22 listees suffered a decline in their net worth from a year ago, but an equal number was modestly better off, Forbes Asia said.

Among the latter group was casino mogul Tan Sri Dr Chen Lip Keong, who moved into the top five for the first time at No 4 as booming growth at Chen’s NagaWorld casino complex in Cambodia, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, helped push his net worth up 6% to US$5.3 billion (RM22.15 billion).

The share price of Chen’s NagaCorp Ltd has nearly doubled since November 2017 when the Naga2 extension opened in Phnom Penh. Kuan Kam Hon at ninth spot, who controls the world’s largest maker of nitrile gloves Hartalega Holdings Bhd, was another notable gainer as his net worth grew US$400 million to US$2.8 billion, from US$2.4 billion last year.

There are five newcomers on the list, the richest of whom are a pair of inheritors.

Among them are brothers Datuk Lee Yeow Chor and Lee Yeow Seng, who share a combined US$4.8 billion legacy left by their father Tan Sri Dr Lee Shin Cheng, the architect of IOI Corp Bhd, a palm oil and property empire.

Besides that, two tech entrepreneurs were electronics maker ViTrox Corp Bhd founder Chu Jenn Weng (No 47, US$280 million), and former Hewlett-Packard engineer Oh Kuang Eng (No 50, US$255 million), whose Mi Technovation Bhd makes semiconductor equipment.

Eco World Development Group Bhd property developer Datuk Leong Kok Wah, who was affected by a glut of new properties that depressed prices and market sentiment, did not make it to this year’s list.

According to Forbes Asia, the list was compiled using information from the individuals, stock exchanges, analysts, private databases, government agencies and other sources.

Net worth estimates are based on stock prices and exchange rates as of the close of markets on Feb 14, 2020.

Private companies were valued by using financial ratios and other comparisons with similar publicly traded companies.