Kuok still Malaysia's richest despite $2.7 billion fall in wealth: Forbes

Robert Kuok retains his No. 1 spot on the 2019 Forbes Malaysia Rich List with a net worth of US$12.8bil (S$17 billion).
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

KUALA LUMPUR - Robert Kuok retains his No. 1 spot on the 2019 Forbes Malaysia Rich List with a net worth of US$12.8bil (S$17 billion) despite a fall in his wealth by US$2bil.

Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan of Hong Leong (Malaysia) added US$2.2bil to his wealth and remains at No. 2 with a net worth of US$9.4bil.

Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow of Public Bank gained US$700mil, rising one spot to No. 3 this year with a net worth of $6.7bil, according to Forbes press statement issued on Thursday.

Forbes said from airlines to manufacturing and property to delivery services, business has not been good for many of Malaysia's top tycoons as the country's economic growth rate slowed.

Overall, 30 tycoons on the 2019 Forbes Malaysia Rich List saw their wealth shrink.

Only 11 enjoyed gains and they include Tan Sri Kong Hon Kong, who founded Kuala Lumpur-based Nirvana Asia in 1990 who is at 16th spot and Abdul Kadier Sahib of Serba Dinamik Holdings, who is at 49th spot.

Forbes pointed out the country's stocks were down as its FBM KLCI lost 8 per cent in the past 12 months and the ringgit slipped 3 per cent against the US dollar. A tumultuous year in politics added to the headwinds.

Rounding out the top five on the list are Ananda Krishnan at No. 4 with US$6.2bil, whose net worth is down by US$900mil as shares in his energy service provider Bumi Armada fell by 78 per cent in the year to March 1.

Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng of IOI Corporation and IOI Properties takes the fifth spot on the list, as his wealth fell by US$200mil to US$5.4bil.

Wong Thean Soon (No. 48) suffered the biggest loss on the list in percentage terms as his net worth plunged 63 per cent to US$280mil.

Shares of Wong's company My E.G. Services, which provides online access to government services, were hit after last year's election on the perception that it was linked too closely to the outgoing government.

A big investor in the company, Norraesah Mohamad, the only woman on the list last year, fell off the rankings.

Other tycoons who saw their wealth fall include Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary who maintains his ranking at No. 12 despite a US$200mil decline in wealth to US$1.7bil. Shares of his infrastructure-linked firms fell amidst an ongoing review of Malaysia's mega-infrastructure projects.

Another tycoon who suffered a setback was Genting chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay (No. 7, US$4.4 billion). He slipped one spot down from No. 6 last year as his fortune fell by US$300mil.

Tan Sri Kong Hon Kong, who founded Kuala Lumpur-based Nirvana Asia in 1990 who is at 16th spot.Photo: The Star/Asia News Network 

Forbes said the company is Asia's largest death-services provider runs private cemeteries, columbarium facilities and funeral homes in Malaysia and Singapore. It has now expanded into Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China, with a sales network of more than 5,000 agents.

Kong took Nirvana Asia private in 2016 in a US$1.1bil deal. Private-equity firm CVC Capital Partners is now exploring a sale.

Meanwhile, newcomer Abdul Kadier Sahib enters the list for the first time at No. 49 with a net worth of US$275mil.

He is a director at Serba Dinamik Holdings, an oil-and-gas-services supplier that went public in 2017 and has seen its stock soar. The company's founder, Mohd Abdul Karim Bin Abdullah (No. 40, US$345mil), debuted a year ago and saw his net worth rise by 11 per cent this year.

There are two returnees on this year's list. Kua Sian Kooi of KSK Group rejoins the list at No. 35 with a net worth of US$420mil while Loh Kian Chong of Oriental Holdings returns to the list at No. 45 with a net worth of US$320mil.

The minimum net worth to make the list this year is US$250mil, down from US$300mil last year.