Saturday February 10, 2007

Quek's stomping grounds: Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan

The first generation Kweks (sometimes spelled as Quek) came to Malaysia from China and were identified by their middle name “Hong”. The Hong Leong group was named after one of the brothers, Kwek Hong Leong.  

Quek Leng Chan, of the second generation, has been one of Malaysia's most prominent corporate personalities for over three decades. His flair for wheeling and dealing has led to a substantial amount of headlines for both the man and companies associated with him, seemingly in the face of his oft-observed reluctance to fraternise with the media.  

Quek took charge of Hong Leong group's Malaysian operations in 1973. His cousin Kwek Leng Beng runs the group's Singapore arm. 

Today, Quek's business reach spans continents, with major stakes in companies as far afield as the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange.  

He has interests in sectors as diverse as banking, semiconductors, construction and property, and even hotels and gaming, the latter of which is part of a trend that has seen Quek looking abroad to grow the group's operations. 

Part of the mystique surrounding Quek is derived from his ability to buy low, whip a particular company into shape, and then sell for a handsome profit. It's a modus operandi that he has honed over many years.  

Quek rose to global prominence in 2001, when he netted RM11.5bil by selling his controlling stake in Dao Heng Bank of Hong Kong to Singapore-run DBS Bank. It was, at that time, the highest price that had been paid for an Asian bank, a feat especially noteworthy given its close chronological proximity to the Asian financial crisis. 

Quek also controls BIL International Ltd, which obtained approval to become a casino operator from British authorities in February 2006. Interestingly, recent data from Britain revealed that Quek has emerged as one of the world's biggest high rollers and a top player in British gaming scene. In the past two years, he has clinched 25 of the 89 casino licences awarded in Britain.  

In April, the Hong Leong group launched Tower Real Estate Investment Trust, a venture that may not have taken off as well as the group hoped. Still, Quek was back in the headlines by May, having masterminded the sale of global air-conditioning maker OYL Industries Bhd to Daikin Industries Ltd of Japan in a deal worth a massive RM7.6bil. 

According to reports, the deal drew plaudits, as the price tag was 21 times OYL's estimated earnings for the following year. It also contributed RM3.04bil to the group's pockets at a time when rising commodity costs were decelerating OYL's earnings. 

Hong Leong Bank Bhd appointed Quek Kon Sean, 26, to its board in July last year; most perceived the move as a signal that an heir to the Hong Leong empire was being groomed. Kon Sean, the youngest son of Quek's three children, is a graduate of the London School of Economics. Besides his role as executive director of Hong Leong Credit, Kon Sean is on the board of HLG Capital, Hong Leong Assurance and Camerlin Group Bhd. – By Hari Raj 


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