Archives | The Star Online.


Saturday March 27, 2010

Sarawak shakers


DATUK Seri Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, 47, and his brother-in-law Datuk Syed Ahmad Alwee Alsree, 45, presently lead the family-controlled and public-listed Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd (CMS), a major diversified group specialising in construction and building materials and software development in the state.

Mahmud – the eldest son of Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud – is the group’s deputy chairman, while Syed Ahmad – a Singaporean, who became a member of the influential family after marrying Taib’s daughter – is the group’s executive director.

Mahmud’s background is in investment and corporate finance; he is a founding member of Sarawak Securities Sdn Bhd, the first stock-broking company in Sarawak which has since been merged with K&N Kenanga Holdings Bhd.

Mahmud is also chairman of construction and infrastructure companies UBG Bhd and Sarawak Cable Bhd, and deputy chairman of construction and real estate firm Putrajaya Perdana Bhd.

Syed Ahmad, on the other hand, had been practising as a lawyer in Singapore for more than 10 years before joining CMS in 2004. He holds a direct stake of 0.21% in CMS. He is also the chairman of asset and fund management company CMS Trust Management Bhd and the deputy chairman of UBG d. – By Cecilia Kok


Low-key timber conglomerate KTS Group controlled by the wealthy Lau family has been a dominant player in Sarawak for almost half a century.

KTS was founded by its former executive chairman and one of the state’s timber tycoons, the late Datuk Sri Lau Hui Kang, a Foochow, who served the group for over four decades. (Hui Kang is the elder brother of Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew. Hui Kang passed away in 2006 at the age of 83)

Hui Kang started his career as an account clerk and general labourer at Hua Seng Sawmill in 1947. He also served as a camp manager and logging contractor with Kong Thai Sawmill and later, as a contractor at Hua Seng Sawmill.

Datuk Henry Lau Lee Kong

In 1956, Hui Kang and several others formed a ramin log export organisation. Hua Seng Export Department was replaced a year later by the Export Department of Kuching Timber Store Sawmills Ltd. In 1962, KTS & Co was incorporated to consolidate all the timber export activities with Hui Kang as the first managing director.

Presently, Hui Kang’s three sons – Datuk Henry Lau Lee Kong, Stephen Lau Lee Kiong and Vincent Lau Lee Ming – manage and run the group’s domestic and global businesses which range from timber and timber-related, media, oil palm, prawn farming, food manufacturing, glass sand maker and shipbuilding. Henry Lau is currently the managing director of KTS Group of Companies.

Set up in 1962, the group started out with businesses in swamp logging, saw-milling and log trading with the Japanese. Owing to its sizeable logging concessions, the group has since flourished into a timber giant and a full-fledged manufacturer in downstream wood products.

In 1987, the KTS group diversified into large-scale oil palm cultivation; Hui Kang was one of the founders of BLD Plantation Berhad and is credited for successfully transforming the company from timber based into a profitable oil palm plantation company. BLD Plantation is KTS’ first listed vehicle.

The group also has a slice of the action in the shipping and shipbuilding businesses and has completed dozens of tugboats, barges and landing crafts for both local and foreign markets.

KTS also has interests in media; it owns See Hua Daily News (Chinese), The Borneo Post (English) and Utusan Borneo, all of which are published and circulated in Sabah and Sarawak and the Oriental Daily (Chinese) which is published and sold in Peninsular Malaysia. – By Jack Wong


The most well-known and used-to-be high profile member of Taib’s children is no doubt Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib. He joined the board of the family-controlled listed flagship Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd in the mid-90s and held the position of group chairman between 2002 and 2006.

Back in May 2003, Sulaiman hogged the limelight when he became chairman of RHB Banking Group (following a takeover of RHB by another CMS’ owned unit Utama Banking Group or UBG). At the age of 35, he became the youngest chairman in a local bank. Three years later, he resigned from his positions in RHB group, about the same time the Employees Provident Fund made a bid to take over UBG’s stake in RHB.

A few months ago, he shocked everyone when he quit from the Cabinet as Deputy Tourism Minister. Till today, no one quite knows the real reason for that move. His recent decision not to seek re-election as the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu Youth vice-president at the coming triennial delegates convention is further puzzling. He remains the Kota Samarahan member of parliment – Kota Samarahan is his father’s “old seat” – since 2008

Sulaiman, 42, is Taib’s youngest son.

Is Sulaiman being groomed to take over the reins from his father in Sarawak? Will he contest a state seat in the upcoming State Assembly elections? Who knows? Still, the guessing game appears relentless. – By B.K. Sidhu


Datuk Abdul Hamed Sepawi, 60, made it to Malaysia’s top 30 wealthy individuals’ list by Forbes Magazine with a known personal net worth of US$200mil. He is married with two children and his family is residing in Australia.

He co-founded Ta Ann and Naim Cendera in 1988 and 1993 respectively, which are listed on Bursa Malaysia.

Whilst remaining active in the timber and plantation. Hamed developed his career around his keen personal interest in the construction sector, which was first acquired through school vacation jobs in Miri.

For more than 30 years, he has been active as an investor, a manager and a director in companies carrying out civil works, offshore engineering, construction, housing and property development. He is the executive chairman of Ta Ann Holdings Bhd, chairman of Sarawak Energy Bhd and a director of Sarawak Plantation Bhd, companies listed on Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd

Spotting a friendly face, Hamed’s has no airs of self importance and thrives on challenges; he practically lives out of the suitcase traversing the world to wheel and deal. His businesses cover bases as far as the Middle East to China, Japan and the whole of Southeast Asia to mention some.

He is founder and chairman of Danawa Resources Sdn Bhd, which provides advanced wireless broadband technologies and the infrastructure for handling triple-play (voice, data and video) and scalable to quadruple-play that will include Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) - his current pet project.

In 1993, Hamed teamed up with Datuk Hasmi Hasnan to set up Naim Cendera. – By Diana Rose


The company was founded by prominent Foochow businessmen Datuk Hii Yii Chiong and Datuk Ding Jack Sung in the 1960s, Sibu-based Delta Bhd made its early fortune as a timber concessionaire. From logging activities, it diversified into manufacturing of sawn timber and timber laminated board, besides providing kiln dry services to other wood-based industries.

As Delta Bhd chairman, Singapore-based Hii, 78, is still very much involved in overseeing the group’s global businesses, with the help of his children. The Hii family now owns more than 80% of Delta.

Having established itself firmly in Sarawak over a decade, the Delta group expanded its timber business in a big way to neighbouring Indonesia. It has also invested substantially in more than 10 sawmills and plywood mills, which were eventually sold off some ten years ago.

Three years ago, the group ventured into oil palm development in Indonesia, targeting an estate size of some 50,000ha. It also owns oil palm plantations in Sarawak.

Delta is a leading property developer in Sibu. The group used to own Delta Finance Bhd, which had a network of 17 branches in Sarawak, Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia, which had 10 years ago merged with RHB Bank.

In Britain, the group’s interests in real estate involves commercial centres and condominiums, most of which have already been sold at a huge gain. In Canada, it is involved in the development of hotels, apartments and shopping complexes. – By Jack Wong


KKB Engineering Bhd has its humble beginning way back in 1962 as a small engineering workshop in Sarawak founded and operated by the present chairman and group managing director, Datuk Kho Kak Beng which was then undertaking modest steel fabrication works.

The business was officially registered as a sole proprietorship in 1962 with the progression into steel fabrication works for factory buildings and products. The Company was listed on the Second Board of Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad in 1994 and was transferred to Main board in 2007.

From an engineering base, the growth of the Company continues to be driven by further expansion and diversification into manufacturing activities relating to steel.


Having gone one full circle from the corporate world to politics and back to the business sector speaks volume of the knowledge and expertise of Datuk Seri Mohd Effendi Norwawi.

Interestingly, Effendi was also one of the three leaders groomed to take over the leadership in Sarawak but gave that all up for reasons only known to him.

Today Effendi, 62, is back at the helm of Encorp Bhd, a company that he controls, as executive chairman.

The Sarawakian Melanau has been a civil servant, a state assemblyman, a member of parliament and a businessman. He held the post of the Sarawak Economic Development Corp chairman for 18 years and was MP from 1999 to 2004 and was the Agriculture Minister for a term.

Effendi was subsequently appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of national macro-economic development. He was then appointed a special envoy, with ministerial status, for higher education. He called it a day in 2008 from the Cabinet, making way for others as in his own words “it would be healthy for the Cabinet to be regularly infused with new blood and new talent.”

He was also chairman of Bank Utama (now part of the RHB banking group) between 1990 and 1995. He founded ntv7, the private free-to-air TV channel which he has since divested. He is married to well-known producer and actress Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina. – By B.K. Sidhu


The chief steward of Miri-based Shin Yang group – a fast-growing Sarawak conglomerate with vast business interests in over a dozen sectors, including logging and downstream timber processing industries – is Datuk Ling Chiong Ho, 58, the company’s executive chairman. Similar to many Sarawak tycoons, he is extremely low-key and comes from humble beginnings.

Chiong Ho hails from a Foochow village in Sibu called Pulau Keladi and his parents were vegetable farmers.

He has three younger brothers – Chiong Pin, 53, Chiong Sing, 51 and Chiong Sieng, 49 – who are also the group’s directors and shareholders. Chiong Ho and his siblings grew up slogging hard at their parents’ vegetable farm.

It was reported that in the late 60s, Chiong Ho and his brother left for Miri town to work as labourers in a construction firm. And as the story goes, they worked hard and saved money which helped them invest in a few wooden tugs and steel hull barges in the early 80s to transport timber products. Having done relatively well, they expanded into timber extraction and the rest, they say, is history.

Today, the group is a stalwart in the shipping and shipbuilding industry, and has substantial investments in oil palm and forest plantations. The group is also an aggressive player in construction, property, hotel and recreational developments, manufacturing and trading activities.

Shin Yang group owns four plywood mills in Bintulu and Miri, and veneer plants. From a small plywood mill with a start-up capacity of 10,000 cu m a month, it has grown into a wood product manufacturer with a capacity of over 100,000 cu m a month, making its one of Asia’s leading exporters of wood products.

Shin Yang is a major shareholder in publicly listed Sarawak Oil Palms Bhd, which has large tracts of oil palm estates in northern Sarawak.

The group also has media interests; it is a major shareholder in Chinese daily, United Borneo, which is circulated in Sarawak and Brunei. – By Jack Wong


Datuk Hasmi Hasnan founded Naim Cendera Sdn Bhd and is managing director of its listed parent Naim Cendera Holdings Bhd since 2003. Naim is largely involved in property and construction. It is widely perceived as one of the biggest potential beneficiaries of the state’s development agenda given its expertise and track record.

He began his career as a valuer in Sarawak’s Land and Survey Department in 1979. Since 1982, he ventured into a wide range of businesses such as property development, construction, timber and publishing, among others.

He also holds board positions in several other entities: non-independent executive chairman of Dayang Enterprise Holdings Berhad since 2008 and non-independent non-executive chairman of Sarawak Plantation Bhd since 2005.

In May 2007, Naim acquired a 45% stake in Dayang Enterprise, which provides offshore platform services within the oil and gas sector. A year later, Dayang was listed. Dayang was founded by James Ling Suk Kiong in 1980, who boldly ventured into the sector armed with scarce capital but an unwavering spirit to grow the company.


Back in the early to mid-90s, Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing hogged the limelight when little known Ekran Bhd, controlled by him bagged the multi-billion ringgit lucrative Bakun dam project. He was said to have won the nod of the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for his can-do attitude of delivering projects on a fast track basis.

Ekran is probably one of the biggest casualties of the Asian Financial Crisis. Then, as the economy was sent on a tailspin, credit dried up as banks were tottering on massive soured loans.

Due to the escalating borrowing cost (high interest rates), Ekran’s lofty plans for Bakun came to an abrupt standstill when the Government decided to shelf the project. But he was paid compensation for that.

The financial status of Ting’s companies began to wobble from then on. Since then, Ekran has not managed to get its financial condition in order and was delisted by Bursa Malaysia in late January this year for failing to do so.

Still, observers say he has managed to secure some contracts through his privately owned Global Upline Sdn Bhd. – By Anita Gabriel


Prominent businessmen Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King of Rimbunan Hijau Group made it back to the 2010 Forbes List of World’s Billionaires with a net worth of US$1bil (RM3.3bil)

This Sarawak timber tycoon – who is also a media baron that controls most of the mainstream Chinese newspapers headquartered in the Klang Valley – is ranked at 937th of the 1,011 billionaires on the Forbes list.

Tiong, 75, hails from Sibu and started working at a very young age of 16 on a part-time basis. It was reported that Rimbunan Hijau was founded in 1975.

The Tiong family is best known for its vast timber interests in east Malaysia and control of a string of Chinese newspapers in Malaysia, Hong Kong (via a 46% stake in Hong Kong’s Ming Pao Daily News), Canada and the United States. It also has investments in everything from hotels and property development, oil palm plantations, mining, to shipping and even fibre optics.

It has large timber concessions in Papua New Guinea, Siberia, Brazil, central Africa (one of which is Gabon,) New Zealand, British Guyana (South America) and Russia.

The Tiong family also controls two listed companies – Jaya Tiasa Holdings Bhd and Subur Tiasa Bhd – which are big in timber-related activities.

The business empire also controls Comserve, which is Sarawak’s largest computer company, and a travel agency, RH Tours & Travel.

Tiong also is a shareholder with 17.1% stake in EON Cap Bhd which is currently embroiled in a tussle for control. He is also executive chairman of Sin Chew Media Corp Bhd. – By B.K. Sidhu


Datuk Wong Kie Nai, 67, is currently the chief executive officer and executive director of WTK Holdings Bhd – a family business, specialising in the timber industry that was founded by his father Datuk Wong Tuong Kwang in Sibu in the 1940s. He inherited the family timber business upon his return as a qualified accountant from Sydney, Australia, in the late 1960s.

In an interview with The Star in 2002, Wong, who is of a Foochow background, was quoted as saying: “There is no shortcut to success; it’s purely hard work. It’s not even luck that can help if one wants to be successful.”

Wong apparently is a workaholic, putting in between 10 and 12 hours of work a day, and even worked over the weekends and holidays. Over the years, he has kept a low profile on his private life, preferring to talk about business and work rather than family history.

Together with his two brothers, Datuk Wong Kie Yik and Wong Kie Chie, Kie Nai has played a significant role in the expansion of WTK, growing the logging and timber empire beyond Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia to countries like Brazil, central Africa and Papua New Guinea. (Kie Yik is a non-executive director and chairman of the board of directors of the company, while Kie Chie is a also non-executive director. Both are substantial shareholders of WTK.) – By Cecilia Kok


For the past few years, Datuk Yaw Teck Seng 71, has been listed as the top 20 richest men in Malaysia. He is the founder of Samling group, an integrated forest resource and wood products company that started business in Miri in 1963. The group is currently listed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The Samling group has the controlling stake over two Malaysian listed companies – timber-based Lingui Development Bhd and integrated oil palm outfit Glenealy Plantations Bhd.

Yaw, who is of Cantonese descent, essentially built his timber empire from scratch. He is said to have picked up the skills while working in a company owned by a local politician Datuk Amar James Wong called Limbang Trading Sdn Bhd.

Yaw had been the key person to have built Samling from a small local logging company with concessionaires concentrated in the state to what it is today – one of the world’s largest players in the industry.

The low-profile tycoon is said to be semi-retired now, and has pretty much remained at the back scene, while his five children, especially his eldest son Yaw Chee Ming, have become the main drivers of the family’s business interests in Malaysia and overseas. Chee Ming is presently the CEO/executive director of Samling. He is also the managing director of both Lingui and Glenealy.

Yaw presently still holds a direct interest of 6.32% and more than 50% indirect interest through other companies in Samling.

Related stories:
The dam runneth over
Second wave of development