PETALING JAYA: Tycoons on the 2021 Forbes Malaysia Rich List saw a rebound in their collective wealth as it rose 14% to nearly RM370 billion (US$90 billion) this year, after declining for two years.
Malaysia’s pandemic-hit economy, which contracted 5.6% in 2020, was expected to get back on track this year. But the country is now grappling with a surge of Covid-19 cases. While the benchmark stock index was up a modest 2.5% since fortunes were last measured 15 months ago, the nation’s 50 richest saw their combined wealth increase to nearly US$90 billion, up from US$79 billion a year ago.
This reversal of fortune can partly be attributed to the country’s dominant position as the medical glove maker to the world. In a pandemic year, as global demand for such protective gear increased significantly, Malaysian exports of rubber gloves doubled, boosting the wealth of the nation’s largest producers.
Five of them feature among the 50 richest, with two, Kuan Kam Hon (No. 7, US$3.8 billion) of Hartalega Holdings and Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai (No. 8, US$3.5 billion) of Top Glove, ranked in the top ten.
Robert Kuok(pix) continues to top the list. The patriarch, who presides over a property and commodities empire, has a fortune of $12.2 billion and at age 97 is the oldest member of the list. Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan, second-generation head of the privately held Hong Leong group, remains at No. 2 with US$9.6 billion.
Tan Sri Koon Poh Keong, who shares a metals fortune with four siblings, was this year’s biggest dollar gainer. Shares of their Press Metal Aluminium Holdings were up as the metal’s prices recovered, adding US$3.4 billion to their wealth and propelling Koon and his brothers to third place with a net worth of $6.4 billion.
Returning to the list are Tan Sri Lim Kuang Sia (No. 14, US$1.4 billion), who controls Kossan Rubber Industries with his siblings, and Stanley Thai (No. 20, US$1.1 billion) who cofounded and runs Supermax Corp. with his wife Cheryl Tan.
There are five newcomers on this year’s list. Among them are brothers Tan Yu Yeh and Yu Wei of Mr D.I.Y. Group, a listed home improvement chain, who are the richest newcomers at No. 10 with US$2.7 billion.
The other four new entrants are all based in Penang, a busy tech hub, which benefited from US-China trade tensions as global companies sought to diversify supply chains. They are Tan Eng Kee (No. 22, US$965 million), cofounder of Greatech Technology, a maker of factory automation equipment; Datuk Ng Chai Eng (No. 37, US$450 million) and Lau Chee Kheong (No. 38, US$445 million), cofounders of engineering services firm UWC and Steven Siaw Kok Teng (No. 49, US$325 million), cofounder of ViTrox, a maker of high-precision machine inspection systems.
The minimum net worth to make the list this year was US$315 million, up from US$255 million last year.
The top 10 richest in Malaysia are:
1) Robert Kuok; US$12.2 billion
2) Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan; US$9.6 billion
3) Tan Sri Koon Poh Keong & siblings; US$6.4 billion
4) Tan Sri Ananda Krishnan; US$5.8 billion
5) Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow; US$5.5 billion
6) Datuk Lee Yeow Chor & Yeow Seng; US$4.9 billion
7) Kuan Kam Hon; US$3.8 billion
8) Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai; US$3.5 billion
9) Tan Sri Chen Lip Keong; US$3.4 billion
10) Tan Yu Yeh & Yu Wei; US$2.7 billion
The complete list can be found at www.forbes.com/malaysia, as well as in the latest issue of Forbes Asia.