Jho Low back in the limelight

JYNWEL Capital may not ring a bell, but the name Low Teik Jho, aka Jho Low, sure does. The 32-year-old high-flying businessman needs little introduction, having shot into the limelight for his influence in oil-rich Gulf countries, parties at exclusive clubs with the likes of socialite Paris Hilton and R&B superstar Usher, and his apparent close ties with top Malaysian politicians.

But beyond his flamboyant lifestyle, the Wharton graduate is back in the news – this time for his business dealings.

Consider this – Jynwel Capital – in which Jho Low is the chief executive officer, has in the last three years been involved in deals worth more than US$7bil (RM22bil).

Based on its deal flows, the firm, which is based in Hong Kong, stands taller than many Malaysian-helmed privately-owned entities. And it has caught the attention of Malaysians and foreigners alike.

Jynwel Capital was co-founded by Jho Low and his brother Szen Low in 2010. This was a year after Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), an entity where Jho Low served as an adviser for about five months from January 2009, failed to take off.

TIA was set up to manage the oil royalty money – amounting to more than RM1bil per year – that the state was getting from Petronas. The original plan was for the state to raise RM6bil and the Federal Government to fork out RM5bil to establish a major fund to spur investments in the state and the country.

But TIA did not take off. However the Federal Government went ahead with the RM5bil fund raising that was used to establish 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Jho Low and his brother Szen Low are the third generation of the Low family from Penang.

A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report has estimated the Low’s family wealth to be worth US$1.75bil (RM5.76bil).

A spokesperson for Jynwel Capital and the Low family, however, declines to verify the report, citing reasons of confidentiality and security protocols of the enlarged Low family and its beneficiaries.

Nevertheless, if the estimation by WSJ is indeed correct, then this would put the Low family’s wealth on par with some of corporate Malaysia’s richest tycoons like Tan Sri Vincent Tan of the Berjaya Group; Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King of the Rimbunan Hijau Group, and brothers Tan Sri Shahril Shamsuddin and Datuk Shahriman Shamsuddin of SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd, going by Forbes richest-list ranking.

These personalities have a net worth ranging from US$1.4bil to US$1.8bil, according to Forbes magazine’s 2014 wealth survey for Malaysia.

While Jho Low may appear to be a prime driver in the merger and acquisition (M&A) activities of Jynwel Capital, the firm has participated as a minority investor in these investments except Myla, a spokesperson tells StarBizWeek.

“The Low family’s investment trusts (advised by Jynwel Capital Ltd) participated as minority investors in these investments, except for Myla where the Low family’s investment trusts took a majority stake.

“In certain transactions such as Coastal Energy, The Park Lane Hotel and Myla, Jynwel Capital sourced the transaction, acted as an investment adviser and took the lead in managing the transaction process,” the spokesperson says via email.

The spokesperson says majority stakeholders in the investments included entities with significant financial resources ranging from the global private equity firm the Blackstone Group’s GSO and sovereign wealth fund Kuwait Investment Authority to high-net-worth billionaire investors such as David Geffen and Dr Thomas Kaplan.

Jynwel Capital has been more visible, given its cooperation with international blue-chip private equity firms, the spokesperson adds.

Prominent deals

On Tuesday, Jynwel Capital, jointly with Spain-based oil and gas (O&G) company Compañía Española de Petróleos, SAU (Cepsa), said it was in discussions to buy London-listed Salamander Energy PLC – a deal, which if successful, will make it a significant O&G player in Asia with production in excess of 50,000 barrels.

Just in the previous week, Jynwel Capital together with unnamed Abu Dhabi-based funds launched a 1.7 billion euros (RM7.06bil) bid to buy Reebok from Adidas AG.

In November last year, Jho Low created a stir in the O&G circle when he teamed up with Cepsa to take over Canadian-listed Coastal Energy Co. Coastal Energy has principal assets in Thailand and Malaysia.

Elsewhere, Jynwel Capital had invested in global commodities company Electrum Group with Kuwait Investment Authority; and was involved in the US$2.2bil acquisition of EMI Music Publishing jointly with The Blackstone Group’s GSO, Sony Corp, David Geffen and Mubadala Development Company.

The spokesperson says Jynwel Capital is positioned as an investment adviser to the Low family investment trusts and other consortium investors, besides being involved in investment and advisory services to professional investors. “We do not currently manage third-party funds,” the spokesperson states.

According to its website, Jynwel Capital has a focus on high-value investments in a variety of target sectors, including media and entertainment, consumer and retail, energy and resources, real estate and hospitality, precious metals, commodities and infrastructure.

Stronger foothold in O&G

Going forward, sources say that Jynwel Capital may be looking to build a stronger foothold in the lucrative O&G sector.

Sources say Coastal Energy has joined in the running to secure a production sharing contract (PSC) for Block PM9, which is a brownfield O&G development located offshore Terengganu.

The PSC for PM9 was supposed to have been awarded by Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) to the successful bidder by the end of 2013, according to various news reports last year. But little progress has been made so far.

The frontrunner for the project was then reported to be the joint venture comprising Perisai Petroleum Teknologi Bhd and its Canadian partner Talisman Energy Inc.

Sources, however, tell StarBizWeek that the luck may have flipped, with Coastal Energy now seeming to be the favoured one to be awarded the PSC for PM9 by Petronas.

Coastal Energy already has an existing partnership with Petra Energy Bhd for a risk service contract by Petronas to operate the Kapal, Banang and Meranti cluster fields located offshore Peninsular Malaysia.

When asked on Coastal Energy possibly being awarded the PM9 field, the spokesperson says the Low family investor, Jho Low’s father Tan Sri Larry Low Hock Peng, is purely a minority passive investor in Coastal Energy, and thus, is not in a position to comment. In addition, the spokesperson notes, Larry is not on the board of Coastal Energy.

For the record, a spokesperson for JynWel Capital and the Low family would like to clarify the following:

1) Jho Low's full name Low Taek Jho, and not Low Teik Jho as published.

2) While the articles on Low stated that investments by Abu Dhabi funds in 2007/08 into Iskandar Malaysia and RHB Capital Bhd did not turn out well in subsequent years as the going was slow in Iskandar while RHB Cap shares did not reach the valuations that Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) had paid, the spokesperson said ADCB went through a bid process and sold its shares for a profit. Although it received offers higher than RM10.80 per share, it ultimately sold its shares to Aabar Investments PJS due to certainty and speed of closing.

3) On Iskandar Malaysia, the spokesperson said while it faced challenges in subsequent stages (after the investment in 2007) due to weak global economic conditions, in the last few years the real estate market there had grown tremendously, and the Mudabala consortium was making a good return.

Related stories: 

Firm evaluates ‘unique’ investments globally

Low family fortune first built on iron-ore mining

Early business dealings

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