EIGHT Malaysians have joined the ranks of the world's richest, according to the Forbes 2006 list of billionaires.
Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng, the boss of plantation giant IOI group of companies, made the list for the first time. Forbes estimated Lee's net worth at US$1.6bil, which makes him Malaysia's sixth richest man.
Hong Kong-based Tan Sri Robert Kuok remained as the country's wealthiest man with an estimated US$5bil. He ranked 114th on the list.
Forbes said Kuok's sprawling business empire included the South China Morning Post newspaper, the Shangri-La Hotel chain and real estate company Kerry Properties.
Malaysia's second richest man Tan Sri Ananda Krishnan, 67, took the 147th spot on the Forbes list. Ananda, who owns Maxis Communications Bhd, is estimated to have a net worth of US$4.3bil.
Other familiar names on the list include Genting Bhd's Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong (ranked at 245), Public Bank Bhd's Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow (365), Hong Leong Group's Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan (382) and Sibu-based timber tycoon Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King (746).
The list also ranked YTL group's Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay and family at the 698th position with a net worth of US$1.1bil.
Forbes listed a record 793 billionaires in the latest list, 102 more than last year.
It said the Asia-Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand, was home to 115 billionaires worth a combined US$364bil.
India was the rising star in the region, adding 10 new faces to the list.
“Strong stock markets around the world contributed to a surge in wealth, as the total net worth of the list soared to US$2.6 trillion,'' Forbes said.
Bill Gates reigned as the world's richest man for a record 12 straight years and widened the gap with No. 2 Warren Buffet.
France's Bernard Arnault (7), Canada's Kenneth Thomson and family (9) and Hong Kong's Li Ka-shing (10) made it into the top 10.