Forbes Malaysia Rich List: Robert Kuok stays top, AirAsia’s Fernandes falls out of Top 50

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Robert Kuok remains at the top of the list with a net worth of US$12.2 billion. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Robert Kuok remains at the top of the list with a net worth of US$12.2 billion. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 — The wealth of the 50 richest people in the 2021 Forbes Malaysia Rich List rebounded 14 per cent to nearly US$90 billion (RM371 billion) this year, up from US$79 billion a year ago.

In a statement, Forbes revealed that after declining for two years and the 5.6 per cent GDP contraction in 2020, Malaysia was expected to get back on track this year despite grappling with a surge of Covid-19 cases.

“While the benchmark stock index was up a modest 2.5 per cent since fortunes were last measured 15 months ago, the nation’s 50 richest saw their combined wealth increase to nearly US$90 billion, up from US$79 billion a year ago,” it said.

Forbes attributed the reversal in fortunes to Malaysia’s dominant position as the medical glove maker to the world as global demand for such protective gear increased tenfolds.

“Malaysian exports of rubber gloves doubled, boosting the wealth of the nation’s largest producers.

“Five of them feature among the 50 richest, with two, Kuan Kam Hon (No. 7, US$3.8 billion) of Hartalega Holdings and Lim Wee Chai (No. 8, US$3.5 billion) of Top Glove, ranked in the top ten.

Robert Kuok, a business magnate who presides over a property and commodities empire, remains at the top of the list with a net worth of US$12.2 billion. He is also the oldest member of the list, at the prime age of 97.

Quek Leng Chan, second-generation head of the privately held Hong Leong group, remains at number two with US$9.6 billion.

Koon Poh Keong, who shares a metals fortune with four siblings, was this year’s biggest dollar gainer as shares of their Press Metal Aluminium Holdings were up as the metal’s prices recovered, adding US$3.4 billion to their wealth and propelling Koon and his brothers to third place with a net worth of US$6.4 billion.

Business mogul and chairman of Usaha Tegas Ananda Krishnan comes in fourth with a net worth of US$5.8 billion, followed by Teh Hong Piow, founder and Chairman of Public Bank Berhad at US$5.5 billion

Brothers Lee Yeow Chor and Yeow Seng — who inherited stakes in IOI group, a palm oil and property empire built by their father — come in sixth with a net worth of US$4.9 billion, while NagaWorld’s Chen Lip Keong comes in ninth with a net worth of US$3.4 billion.

Tan Yu Yeh and Yu Wei, or better known as the Tan brothers of MR DIY Group come in tenth this year with a net worth of US$2.7 billion. They are also the richest newcomers on this year’s list.

Forbes added that four more new entrants were also included this year, all of whom are based in Penang - which benefited from US-China trade tensions as global companies sought to diversify supply chains.

“They are Tan Eng Kee (No. 22, US$965 million), cofounder of Greatech Technology, a maker of factory automation equipment; Ng Chai Eng (No. 37, US$450 million) and Lau Chee Kheong (No. 38, US$445 million), cofounders of engineering services firm UWC and Steven Siaw Kok Teng (No. 49, US$325 million), cofounder of ViTrox, a maker of high-precision machine inspection systems,” it said.

Forbes added that the pandemic also took its toll on 19 listees, whose fortunes have fallen.

“Among the hardest hit were casino moguls Chen Lip Keong (No. 9, US$3.4 billion) and Lim Kok Thay (No. 11, US$2.55 billion).

“Seven from last year’s list dropped out, notably the AirAsia duo, Tony Fernandes and Kamarudin Meranun, as the ongoing pandemic dimmed hopes of a revival in travel,” it said.

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