Weak ringgit eroding wealth of the rich


Robert Kuok retained his title as Malaysia’s wealthiest person with a net worth of US$11.5bil, down from US$11.8bil in 2023.

PETALING JAYA: The combined fortune of Malaysia’s top 50 wealthiest families and individuals increased by 2% to US$83.4bil for the year amid a weaker ringgit, according to Forbes Asia.

The modest gain reflected the impact of the declining ringgit, which offset a 9% increase in Malaysia’s stock market since the wealth of the country’s richest tycoons were last measured, the financial and investment media group explained.

In Forbes’ 2024 list of Malaysia’s 50 Richest, centenarian business mogul – Robert Kuok, retained his title as Malaysia’s wealthiest person, with a net worth of US$11.5bil, down from US$11.8bil in 2023.

The founder of the Kuok Group, which grew from a modest business of sugar, rice and wheat flour trading into a thriving conglomerate, has held on to the position as Malaysia’s No. 1 richest individual for more than a quarter of a century.

Holding onto the No. 2 spot on the Forbes list was Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan, executive chairman of Hong Leong Group. This was despite his net worth declining to US$8.8bil from US$10.2bil last year.

Moving up two spots to third place this year were the Teh siblings, who inherited a stake in Public Bank Bhd from their late father Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow.

Their net worth stood at US$5.4bil, up from US$5.2bil last year when they were ranked the fifth richest.

Breaking into the top five for the first time were also inheritors – brothers Datuk Lee Yeow Chor and Yeow Seng of IOI Group – at No. 4 with a combined net worth of US$5.35bil, up from US$4.6bil last year, thanks to property gains, according to Forbes Asia.

Older brother Yeow Chor runs the family’s palm oil company IOI Corp Bhd as its group managing director and chief executive, while Yeow Seng oversees IOI Properties Bhd as its group chief executive.

Sliding to No. 5 this year from No. 3 last year, aluminium magnates Tan Sri Koon Poh Keong and siblings saw their net worth decline to US$5.3bil from US$5.8bil, amid weaker prices and demand for the metal.

Forbes Asia noted that the biggest gainers on this year’s list, in both dollar and percentage terms, among the 22 fortunes that were up this year were Tan Sri Francis Yeoh and siblings.

With a combined wealth of US$4.7bil, Yeoh and siblings jumped seven spots on the list to No. 7 this year.

This was in tandem with the rise in the shares of their flagship YTL group of companies, which partnered with US technology giant Nvidia to build an artificial intelligence infrastructure at its data centre park in Johor.

At No. 8 was property magnate Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah, whose Sunway Group had banked on healthcare for future growth.

With his net worth rising more than two-fold to US$2.4bil, Cheah entered the top 10 for the first time.

The other two tycoons in the top 10 list were Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay of Genting group of companies, with a net worth of US$2.2bil at No. 9, and former math teacher Chia Song Kun, executive chairman of his family’s seafood firm, QL Resources Bhd, with a net worth of US$1.8bil at No 10.

Among the newcomers on the 2024 list of Malaysia’s 50 Richest were two sets of heirs: the Chen family, at No 18, with a net worth of US$1.1bil, after inheriting the wealth of casino mogul Chen Lip Keong, who passed away in December, and the Gnanalingam family, at No. 12 with US$1.6bil, after taking over the business of late ports magnate Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam, who died last July.

Forbes Asia said the minimum net worth to qualify for the list was US$320mil, up from US$315mil in 2023.

Its 50 Richest list was compiled using shareholding and financial information obtained from the families and individuals, stock exchanges, annual reports, analysts, government agencies and other sources.It added that the net worths were based on stock prices and exchange rates as of the close of markets on April 2, 2024, and private companies were valued based on similar companies that are publicly traded.The ranking lists both individual and family fortunes, including those shared among relatives and may differ from the World’s Billionaires List, which included individual fortunes with net worth as of March 8.

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