WIDELY referred to as the richest clan in South East Asia, Khoo Kongsi can attribute its wealth largely to its shrewd investments especially in the property sector.
Its most prolific property is the 144ha Bandar Baru Ayer Itam, now worth an estimated RM100,000 per sq. metre.
Formerly known as Thean Teik Estate, Bandar Baru Ayer Itam stands as among the northern region's most successfully developed private land. .
The clan bought the 144ha land in the 1920s for a mere RM127,000 from descendants of Thean Teik, a wealthy land owner.
It was only in the 1980s that the clan started approaching developers to develop the land, Khoo Kongsi secretary Khoo Boo Hong said.
“When we purchased the land, it was purely for investment purposes. We had no detailed plans in mind to develop the area and had no idea it was going to be such a thriving township.
“In the early days, the Thean Teik area was considered far and isolated from town. So, when we purchased the land, it was quite a gamble.
“It was only in 1983 that we enlisted the Farlim Group to develop the land. Prior to that, we tried to work with several other developers but nothing came out of it because they were unable to solve the squatter problem,” Boo Hong said, adding that the clan owns several shophouses and residential flats in Bandar Baru Ayer Itam.
“Now that the development of Bandar Baru Ayer Itam is almost completed, we are investing in property on the mainland,” he said, adding that the Khoo Kongsi recently acquired two palm oil estates in Kulim and Juru.
Through the years, the clan has also acquired a string of pre-war houses, shop lots and buildings in Bukit Mertajam, Kuala Lumpur and on Penang island.
“We still have 35 parcels of vacant and undeveloped land all over Penang , some of which we have rented out as car parks to private operators,” Boo Hong said, adding that one of the main objectives of the clan's property investment activities was to strengthen its land bank so that the Khoo Kongsi would be able to help its clansmen.
Contrary to what some would like to believe, the Khoo Kongsi's wealth is not all kept in a vault. The kongsi is among the more generous clans in the region, constantly contributing funds to its members and society.
“Last year, we gave out almost RM300,000 in education, medical and financial aids. Clansmen who are widowed or are unable to afford medical treatment approach us for help and we try to help on a case to case basis.
“As part of our contribution to society, the Khoo Kongsi also donates to various charitable causes, especially during festive seasons,” Boo Hong said.
Rest assured, the Khoo Kongsi in Penang has not forgotten its roots in China.
The clan was the biggest single contributor to the rebuilding and repairing of the Cheng Soon Keong and Ee Kok Tong temples and a five-storey clan administration office-cum-hostel in its ancestral Sin Aun village in Xiamen.
The 171-year-old Penang Khoo Kongsi also has a tradition of sending a monthly remittance of RM1,000 to the ancestral village since the colonial days for ancestral worship activities.