Malaysia’s 50 richest sees 4 new faces, Kuok still No 1

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s 50 richest, as compiled by Forbes, saw four new faces this year — two of whom are real estate tycoons — while “Sugar King” Robert Kuok, who saw his net worth slipping US$200 million (RM722 million) last year due to the plunge in commodity prices to US$11.3 billion, is still the richest man in Malaysia.

The four new Malaysians who made it into the list this year are: real estate tycoon Khoo Cheng Hai (at No 45, with a net worth of US$285 million), who broke into the list as shares of his KSL Holdings Bhd doubled; packaging specialist Lim Teck Meng of Scientex Bhd (No 46, US$280 million), oil-ship fabricator tycoon Ng Chin Heng of Coastal Contracts Bhd; and co-founder of United Overseas Australia Ltd, Kong Chong Soon, (No 50, US$240 million).

In a statement yesterday, global media branding and technology company Forbes Media, which publishes the Forbes Asia magazine that featured the list, said the minimum net worth to make it into the list this year is US$240 million, up from US$220 million a year ago.

Kuok, 91, who made it into the list for the 10th straight year with an empire that spans palm oil, sugar, shipping, real estate and hotels, has held on to the top spot throughout the period. The Kuok group today controls several listed companies in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

Coming in second place is telecommunications mogul T Ananda Krishnan, with a net worth of US$9.7 billion. Ananda had seen his wealth drop by US$1.6 billion in the past year, partly because of a slump in the shares of oilfield services provider Bumi Armada Bhd, in which he has a stake.

“Telecom assets make up more than half his wealth, led by his controlling stake in Malaysia’s Maxis [Bhd],” said Forbes.

Banking tycoon Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan, who saw his net worth fall by US$800 million from a year ago to US$5.6 billion, is third in the list.

“His privately held Hong Leong Co holds stakes in sectors from food to finance, on top of investments in oil and gas (O&G), which include stakes in Indonesia’s Samudra Energy, Malaysia’s Scomi Energy Services Bhd, and Alam Maritim Resources Bhd and Singapore’s Ezion Holdings Ltd, a supplier of support vessels for oilfields,” said Forbes.

Casino tycoon Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay of the Genting group took the fourth spot with a net worth of US$5.5 billion, down from US$6.5 billion last year, as China’s economic moderation affected the region’s casino gaming and entertainment sector.

The wealth of some in the list was affected as the local stock market lost steam and the oil price collapse sent the Malaysian ringgit down 10% against the dollar, said Forbes, adding that tycoons with significant investments and ties to the oil sector suffered a decline in their net worth. One example was Tan Sri Mokhzani Mahathir, an investor in O&G services provider SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd, who saw his net worth fall to US$700 million.

“The main investors in SapuraKencana — brothers Tan Sri Shahril Shamsuddin and Tan Sri Shahriman Shamsuddin — also saw their fortunes drop to US$860 million,” said Forbes.

It was not all bad news for Malaysia’s richest though as the lower ringgit also boosted exports, it added.

Sabah-based tycoon Tan Sri Lau Cho Kun (No 15), who holds the largest stake in Hap Seng Consolidated Bhd, reached the billionaire ranks on more robust plantation and trading revenue with a net worth of US$1.08 billion.

Software tycoon Dr Goh Peng Ooi (No 9, US$1.55 billion) saw his net worth increase by some US$450 million. His Silverlake Axis now provides financial software to 40% of Southeast Asia’s banks.

The list was compiled by Forbes using shareholding and financial information obtained from the families and individuals, stock exchanges, analysts, private databases, the Companies Commission of Malaysia and other sources.

The net worth figures are based on stock prices and exchange rates as of the close of markets on Feb 13, 2015.

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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on February 27, 2015.