Slower economy, Covid-19 take toll on Malaysia’s 50 richest


  • Economy
  • Thursday, 05 Mar 2020

Forbes said nonagenarian business legend Robert Kuok, with a net worth of US$11.5bil, remains at No. 1, a position he has held for over two decades.

KUALA LUMPUR: The combination of a slowing economy, Covid-19 coronavirus, weak ringgit and 10% slide in the FBM KLCI took a toll on Malaysia’s 50 richest, according to Forbes 50 Malaysia’s Richest list.

“Their collective net worth is US$79bil, down 7% from a year ago. (The surprise resignation of Prime Minister Mahathir in late February took the index down further after we had locked in net worths.), ” it said in its March edition.

Forbes said nonagenarian business legend Robert Kuok, with a net worth of US$11.5bil, remains at No. 1, a position he has held for over two decades.

Kuok is among four list members whose wealth shrank by more than US$1bil in the past year.

The hardest-hit in dollar terms was banking tycoon Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow, the founder of Public Bank, who slipped to No. 5 from No. 3 last year.

AirAsia’s Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun saw more than a third of their respective fortunes vanish.

Aside from the coronavirus onset curtailing air travel, another blow to their fortunes came in early February after a UK court ruling implicated AirAsia and unnamed executives in an Airbus bribery case. AirAsia has denied all allegations of wrongdoing and said it is investigating the matter.

“In all, 22 listees saw their net worth decline from a year ago, but an equal number were modestly better off, ” it said.

The Forbes report said among the latter group was casino mogul Tan Sri Chen Lip Keong, who moved into the top five for the first time; he’s at No. 4 with US$5.3bil.

Another gainer is Kuan Kam Hon, who controls Hartalega Holdings, the world’s largest maker of nitrile gloves.

Five newcomers enter the ranks this year, the richest of whom are a pair of inheritors. Brothers Lee Yeow Chor and Lee Yeow Seng share a US$4.8bil legacy left by their father Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng, the architect of a palm oil and property empire, who died last June.

“This year’s new faces include two tech entrepreneurs: Chu Jenn Weng, founder of electronics maker ViTrox; and former Hewlett-Packard engineer Oh Kuang Eng, whose Mi Technovation makes semiconductor equipment, ” the report said.

Tan Sri Vincent Tan’s flagship Berjaya Corp. has not escaped the Malaysian stockmarket’s overall decline. Berjaya’s stock fell about 14% in the past 12 months, while Tan’s fortune is down 2.6% to US$750mil.

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