Robert Kuok Hock Nien is currently the richest man in Malaysia. He is a Malaysian business magnate(entrepreneur of great influence) and investor.
Forbes revealed his net worth to be around $12.8 billion since March 2019, making him the wealthiest person in Malaysia and 104th wealthiest in the world.
Back in April 2019, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index revealed that Kuok had an estimated net worth of $18.4 billion, making him the 53rd richest person in the world.
Most of Mr. Kuok’s businesses are privately held by him or his family. Aside from the many businesses in Malaysia, his companies have investments in many countries throughout Asia.
His variety of businesses includes sugarcane plantations (Perlis Plantations Bhd), sugar refineries, flour milling, animal feed, oil, mining, finance, hotel (Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts), property, trading, freight and publishing.
The stake in Wilmar International, the world’s largest listed palm oil trader company, is the greatest source of Mr. Kuok’s wealth.
Kuok was born and raised on 6 October 1923, in Johor Bahru to a Malaysian Chinese family. Kuok’s father arrived in Malaya from Fujian, China, at the beginning of the 20th century, and Robert was the youngest of three brothers. He grew up speaking his parents’ Chinese Fuzhou dialect and English.
He picked up Japanese during Japan’s occupation of Malaya. He studied at Raffles Institution, where he was classmates with Lee Kuan Yew.
After that he moved on to the English College Johore Bahru.
He began working as an office boy, and later started a business with relatives’ support.
After his graduation, he collaborated and worked as a clerk in Mitsubishi Shoji Kaisha, the rice-trading department of Japanese industrial conglomerate during the Japanese occupation period between 1942 and 1945.
In Singapore, the Japanese military unit monopolized the rice trade in Malaya during the occupation period. As a result, he was promoted to head the rice-trading department.
After the war, he took the skills he picked up to the family’s business in Johor.
Kuok senior died in 1948. As such, Kuok and his two brothers along with their cousin Kuok Hock Chin founded Kuok Brothers Sdn Bhd in 1949, trading agricultural commodities.
Kuok maintained the relationship with the Japanese after Malaya gained independence, leading to Kuok forming Malayan Sugar Manufacturing Co. Bhd. together with two prominent Japanese partners in 1959.
He welcomed numerous influential Malay elite into his company as directors and shareholders, including politicians and royalty.
In 1961, he purchased cheap sugar from India before the prices increased, and invested heavily in sugar refineries. At one point in time, he controlled 80% of the Malaysian sugar market with production of 1.5 million tonnes, equivalent to 10% of world production.
This earned him the nickname “Sugar King of Asia.”
In 1971, he built the first Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore. His first venture into Hong Kong property was back in 1977, when he acquired a plot of land on the newly reclaimed Tsim Sha Tsui East waterfront.
It’s also where he built his second hotel, the Kowloon Shangri-La.
Back in 1993, his Kerry Group acquired a 34.9% stake in the South China Morning Post from Murdoch’s News Corporation.
Kuok officially retired from the Kerry Group on 1 April 1993.
His companies have investments across many countries, including Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Mainland China, Indonesia, Fiji, and Australia.
His businesses in China involve 10 bottling companies for Coca-Cola and ownership of the Beijing World Trade Centre.
His political influence deemed him as one of the Hong Kong Affairs Advisors in the run-up to the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong and his minority stake in CITIC Pacific. He was also instrumental in conveying information and setting up the meetings between Malaysian and Chinese governments.
Back in 2007, Kuok combined his plantations, edible oil, and grains businesses with Wilmar International, making it the world’s biggest palm-oil processor.
In May 2018, Kuok was appointed to the Council of Eminent Persons along with Tun Daim Zainuddin, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Merican and Jomo Kwame Sundaram.
25th February 2020 17:00