Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What you can do with Robert Kuok's (Malaysia Richest Man) billions

MALAYSIA'S richest man Robert Kuok is so rich that you get vertigo by just looking at the number of zeroes on his price tag.

Yes, the exemplar sugar king (some call him the "original sugar daddy" in an inoffensive sense) is top of the country's wealthiest list for yet another year, according to the latest survey by Malaysian Business released late last week, which put his net worth at more than RM50 billion.

That's a humdinger of a sum. If we were to write that in numerals, RM50 billion will have the number five followed by 10 zeroes -- 12 if you include the sen denomination. Certainly not enough room to occupy the numerical space in a cheque.

That's how rich Kuok is.
Still, for ordinary folk, it is hard to imagine how much RM50 billion is or what one could do with it. Well, here's a little perspective to give a rough idea:

His wealth is 200 times more than the Perlis budget for this year as tabled at the legislative assembly a few months ago, which is RM262 million and more than 100 times Kelantan's RM464 million. Heck, it's even 30 times bigger than the annual budget of Malaysia's richest state of Selangor (RM1.43 billion).

That's how rich Kuok is.

RM50 billion is also large enough to build four Putrajayas or five Kuala Lumpur International Airports. If Kuok gives a RM5 ang pow to each and everyone on the planet today, he would still be left with RM15 billion and would only go down one spot in the richest Malaysian list to be runner-up to T. Ananda Krishnan, who has an estimated fortune of RM45.8 billion, according to Malaysian Business.

If Kuok were to string his cash end to end in RM10 notes, the link would probably be long enough to stretch from Johor Baru, his hometown, to Hong Kong, his place of residence now.

That's how rich he is.

Kuok is listed by Forbes as the richest man in Southeast Asia, in the top eight in Asia and in 34th place in the world rankings, which has Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helu in the No. 1 spot with assets worth US$53.5 billion (RM165.8 billion), followed by American Bill Gates, the Microsoft president, at US$53 billion (RM164 billion).

Even then, being in that position means that Kuok is richer than George Soros, the American currency trader who became famous here for the wrong reasons 14 years ago, and Russian magnate Roman Abramovich. Soros is one rung below Kuok while Abramovich, the free-spending owner of glamour English premier league club Chelsea, is several notches below at No. 50 with assets worth a little more than US$11 billion (RM34.1 billion).

That's how rich he is.

Kuok, whose empire has expanded from sugar to hotels and oil and gas, has been top of the Malaysian charts for ages, ahead of the usual suspects dominating the rankings, such as Public Bank's Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow, Genting Group's Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay and Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary of the Albukhary Foundation.

Some people are, however, quietly cynical about the list, reckoning that some names are "conspicuously missing", ranging from royalty to politicians and some other businessmen.

But whatever it is, nobody can begrudge or take away the credit from Kuok. We have to hand it to him for his self-made achievements. In fact, the Kuok success story should be an inspiration to Malaysians in business and politics though it is most unfortunate that he has chosen to reside in Hong Kong now.

Euromoney magazine once described his business empire as having been built on "political astuteness, an Asia-wide network of contacts and a willingness to take risks".

Now that's a power statement from the international news magazine on financial markets because, despite being low profile, Kuok's connections with some politicians are quite well known. But, of course, that's his prerogative and there's nothing wrong with it.

Only that the publicity-shy persona seems to be the trademark of most, if not all, Malaysian tycoons. Ananda Krishnan is known to have only given one press interview before and it's the same with Syed Mokhtar.

Frankly, I don't know what they are scared of.

Euromoney reported that in one of the rare TV interviews given by Kuok in 1994, when asked about his "sense of mission" as a great entrepreneur, he bluntly replied that the most important thing was "to make money".

That's how focused Kuok was.

1 comment:

  1. The Chinese Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok made his money in sugar, palm oil, shipping and property. And he did share his point of view on how to make money during Kuok Group’s 60th Anniversary called “Robert Kuok Hock Nien notes on the past sixty years”, read it at: