Malaysian tycoon keeps himself rooted despite leaving his hometown

Malaysian tycoon keeps himself rooted despite leaving his hometown

There is a bit of a romantic streak in South-east Asia's richest man, it seems.

Four decades ago, Mr Robert Kuok decamped Malaysia for Hong Kong.

The ostensible reason: lower taxes in Hong Kong. What some say: a fierce dislike of Malaysia's controversial New Economic Policy favouring the bumiputeras and the resulting cronyism.

Whatever it was, today, Mr Kuok says of the country in which he was born: "I haven't lost my affection for Malaysia."

In a telephone interview with The Straits Times yesterday, the tycoon elaborated on his donation of RM100 million (S$39 million) to build Xiamen University's first overseas campus in Salak Tinggi, Selangor.

The largess was announced last week during a lunch with Chinese President Xi Jinping when the latter visited Malaysia. "It is a gesture of appreciation. I wish Malaysia only well," says Mr Kuok.

The magnate, who marked his 90th birthday on Sunday and is known for being averse to media interviews - he had not granted one to the international media for 16 years barring one to Bloomberg in January - showed little signs of his age except in some impact on his hearing.

Asked about succession plans for his HK$300 billion (S$48 billion) conglomerate Kuok Group, Mr Kuok insists firmly that it is a "private matter - a family matter, a company matter".

"I will not poke my nose into other families' (businesses), and I hope they won't poke their noses into mine."

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