The 40 wealthiest Malaysians are worth US$62.1 billion (RM188.3 billion), up by US$11.1 billion compared with last year, according to the latest rich list published by Forbes Asia. Forbes Asia said in a statement that the combined wealth was almost 22% more than the list in 2010. “The better coffers come on the back of the country’s healthy economy which grew 7.2% last year, the highest rate since 2000,” it said. The first two spots were still occupied by Sugar King Robert Kuok Hock Nien and Telecommunications tycoon Ananda Krishnan respectively. Kuok, 87, has held the pole position since 2006 when Forbes Asia began ranking the 40 richest Malaysians.
Kuok is worth US$12.5 billion, up by half a billion from last year. His biggest source of wealth is his stake in Wilmar International, the world’s largest listed palm oil company. Ananda, 72, is at No 2 with US$9.5 billion, up from US$8.1 billion last year. His Maxis Communications Bhd is Malaysia’s biggest cellphone service provider. Recently he took three of his companies private: satellite broadcaster Astro All Asia Networks plc, power and gambling company Tanjong plc, and satellite operator Measat Global Bhd. At No 3 is this year’s biggest gainer in dollar terms, Lee Kim Hua. The 81-year-old widow of the late casino magnate Lim Goh Tong is one of only three women on the list this year.Her Genting shares took off when the company’s Singapore operations on Sentosa Island opened, boosting the family’s net worth by US$2.7 billion to US$6.6 billion from a year ago.
Palm Oil Emperor Lee Shin Cheng, who built IOI Group into one of the world’s biggest palm oil producers, is down one spot at No 4 with a net worth of US$5 billion, up by US$400 million from last year. AirAsia Bhd’s maverick boss Tony Fernandes, a budget airline pioneer and Forbes Asia’s 2010 Businessman of the Year, is ranked No 20 this year, down one spot from last year despite his wealth increasing to US$470 million from US$330 million last year.
The only newcomer this year is Chia Song Kun at No 24 with US$400 million. The share price of his QL Resources Bhd, the seafood, egg production and palm oil company, has doubled since last year. Tony Tiah Thee Kian at No 35 is the only returnee to the list after a year’s absence as stocks in his TA Enterprise Bhd has recovered. He is worth US$170 million. Not all did well as there were three this year who saw their wealth reduced, led by Vincent Tan Chee Yioun at No 9. The self-made entrepreneur, who runs the Berjaya Group, saw his wealth declined to US$1.25 billion from US$1.6 billion last year.
Timber tycoon Tiong Hiew King was the only person who did not see any changes to his wealth. He is still worth US$1.2 billion and is ranked No 10 on the list. This year, a minimum net worth of US$125 million is needed to qualify for the list, up from US$110 million last year. The number of billionaires on the list remains unchanged from last year at 10. There are six octogenarians on the list this year. The oldest, at 88, is widow Chong Chook Yew who comes in at No 29 with a wealth of US$300 million. Stocks in her company Selangor Properties Bhd hit a three-year high in January this year on news of a possible mass transit development near one of the company’s landbanks. This pushed her wealth up by US$70 million from last year.