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Here Are The 13 M'sian Billionaires On Forbes' 2019 List & How They Got There

With all the buzz around Kylie Jenner overtaking Mark Zuckerberg as the youngest self-made billionaire, we checked out Forbes’ 2019 Billionaire List, wondering how many Malaysians are on that list this year.

Only 13 Malaysians made it to Forbes’ List in 2019, compared to 22 in Singapore. Here, we take a look at who the Malaysians are and how they built their wealth.

Note: USD1 billion is about RM4.08 billion after conversion.

#104: Robert Kuok, USD12.8 Billion

Still holding onto the number spot in Malaysia is the “Sugar King”, Robert Kuok. Known for investing heavily in sugar refineries, he once controlled 80% of Malaysia’s sugar market with production of 1.5 million tonnes—equivalent to 10% of the worlds sugar production. Hence he earned the nickname “Sugar King of Asia”.

He is also the owner of Kuok Group who has interests in real estate, hotels and commodities. He is also known for founding the renowned five-star Shangri-La Hotel chain that has over 100 luxury hotels and resorts worldwide.

#149: Quek Leng Chan, USD9.4 Billion

As the executive chairman of privately held conglomerate Hong Leong Co. (Malaysia), he has extensive business experience in various sectors, including financial services, manufacturing and real estate. He has stakes in almost a dozen public companies, including property manager Guoco Group, insurer Hong Leong Financial and manufacturer Hong Leong Industries.

Unknown to most, the cigar-smoking billionaire, who indulges in high-stakes gambling to unwind, gained control of Maidenhead, England-based gaming company Rank Group in 2011 through Guoco. Rank subsequently became Britain’s biggest casino operator after it acquired 19 casinos from rival Gala Coral in 2013.

#233: Teh Hong Piow, USD6.7 Billion

Another banker billionaire, Teh Hong Piow had an early start in his banking career in 1950 as a Bank Clerk in Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation Ltd. After rising through the ranks he then founded Public Bank Berhad in 1965.

He has since overseen its evolution into a modern and integrated financial institution with a wide network of 259 domestic and two overseas branches.

Although he has relinquished his position as as the non-executive chairman of Public Bank with effect on 1st of January 2019, he will stay on as adviser with effect from January 1, 2019 and provide guidance to support the continued growth of Public Bank and the Public Bank group.

#261: Ananda Krishnan, USD6.2 billion

Although Ananda Krishnan has been caught up in controversy for money laundering in India, he is still one of the top billionaires in Malaysia. In the early 1990s, he started diversifying into the multimedia arena and currently, he has business interests in ASTRO, MEASAT and some telecommunications like Maxis, Aircel, Axis and Sri Lanka Telecom.

He owns stakes in Tanjong Public Limited Company, an investment holding company with subsidiaries involved in power generation (Powertek), gaming (Pan Malaysian Pools), leisure (tropical islands, TGV Cinemas) and property (67% Maxis Tower etc.).

#325: Lee Shin Cheng, USD5.4 billion

Heading IOI Corporation Berhad or better known as IOI Group as its executive chairman, he began his entrepreneurial journey in the palm oil industry. Currently, IOI, which is listed on Bursa Malaysia, is a conglomerate managing oil palm plantations, producing specialty fats and oleochemicals, and developing property in Malaysia.

He is also known as the “tree talker” among journalists, rival plantation companies and bankers in Malaysia thanks to his walkabouts on IOI’s 152,000 hectares of oil palm plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. In his words, “Each [tree] has her own characteristics. If one produces well, I will tell her ‘I love you’.”

#355: Chen Lip Keong, USD5 billion

His career started as a medical doctor of general practice but during 1994, he won Cambodia’s first casino license even though he didn’t have any interest in gambling. Only visiting Malaysia’s Genting Highlands once in the 1970s and Las Vegas once as a tourist, he claims that casinos aren’t in his blood.

As the self-proclaimed “accidental” gambling billionaire and the chief executive and majority shareholder of NagaCorp, he had made his mark with NagaWorld being one of the first-rank contenders in Asia’s $51 billion casino market. Its NagaWorld casino-resort complex in Phnom Penh boasts 1,700 guest rooms, 600 gaming tables and more than 5,000 gaming machines.

#436: Lim Kok Thay, USD4.4 billion

No stranger to the billionaire club, he is the second son of fellow billionaire, the late Lim Goh Tong who founded the Genting Group. Lim Kok Thay is a board executive and Chairman of Genting Group, a casinos, resorts and palm oil conglomerate with a market capitalisation of almost US$40 billion.

Under his reins, he has grown Genting Group across the region with integrated resort properties in three Asian countries that attracts millions of visitors, namely Resorts World Genting in Malaysia, Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore and Resorts World Manila in the Philippines.

#645: Lau Cho Kun, USD3.4 billion

The Sabah-based tycoon is the largest shareholder of Hap Seng Consolidated through the holding company Gek Poh and investment arm Lei Shing Hong. Starting out in timber, the group has businesses in property, palm oil, automotive and building material.

Hap Seng is also an authorised dealer of Mercedes-Benz cars, with six Autohaus showrooms in the Klang Valley, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching, the Hap Seng group participates in the wholesale distribution of the Mercedes-Benz and Fuso commercial vehicles in Malaysia.

#962: Kuan Kam Hon, USD2.4 billion

Kuan Kam Hon is the founder and chairman of Hartalega Holdings, one of the world’s largest producers of nitrile rubber. Hartalega was the inventor of the world’s first lightweight nitrile glove in 2005, which caused a demand shift from latex to nitrile gloves all over the globe.

They are now known as the largest producer of nitrile gloves in the world, capable of manufacturing 33 billion gloves a year and will progressively expand to 44.6 billion gloves in 2020.

#1349: Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary, USD1.7 billion

When Syed Mokhtar brought home his first salary of RM1,500 as a rice trader in 1974, he pledged half of his salary to 15 under-privileged families and the other half to his mother and siblings. With that he began his philanthropy work and then founded the Albukhary Foundation.

Most of his wealth comes from stakes in listed conglomerates such as MMC Corp and DRB-HICOM, MMC’s operations include sports, logistics, construction and engineering while DRB-HICOM is an automative giant that’s also involved in property and education, most famously know for Proton. A 49.9% stake in Proton was sold to Chinese auto group Zhejiang Geely in 2017.

#1349: Koon Poh Keong, USD1.7 billion

Koon Poh Keong is a founding member of Press Metal Aluminium Holdings Bhd and has been its CEO since the company’s listing on Bursa Malaysia in 1993. He and his brothers started the company by pooling USD50,000 together to start an aluminium-extruding company in Puchong, Selangor.

He and his brothers had zero experience in the business but Press Metal has now become Southeast Asia’s largest integrated aluminium producer.

#1717: Jeffrey Cheah, USD1.3 billion

As founder and current chairman of the Sunway Group, a Malaysian conglomerate operating in 12 industries with core businesses in property and construction, he is known for transforming Sunway City from a tin-mining wasteland into a wonderland with renown attractions which can be seen in Sunway Lagoon and Sunway Pyramid.

With a drive to create sustainable and fully-integrated green townships he has expanded Sunway outside of the Klang Valley. Including Sunway City Ipoh, which was built upon the principles of preservation and conservation cradled by 260-million-year-old limestone hills and verdant forests.

#1818: Lim Wee Chai, USD1.2 billion

In 1991, Lim Wee Chai founded Top Glove, a rubber glove manufacturing and trading business which started with only 1 factory and 1 production line.

Having invested all of his and his wife’s savings of RM180,000 into the company, Top Glove has since emerged as the world’s largest manufacturer of gloves, capturing about 25% of the world market share. Today, it is the world’s biggest manufacturer of gloves with 40 factories, 648 production lines and a production capacity of 60.5 billion pieces of gloves per year.


In the current climate, capitalism is taking some “lumps” as mentioned by Forbes.

“For only the second year in a decade, both the number of billionaires and their total wealth shrank, proving that even the wealthiest are not immune to economic forces and weak stock markets,” said Forbes on their website.

Nearly 1,000 billionaires tracked by Forbes saw declines in their estimated net worth. The world’s billionaire class is now poorer by about USD400 billion and Forbes attributed the “lump” thanks to stock market drops in 2018 and global economic slowdowns.

However, when it comes to the individual Malaysian billionaires, it doesn’t seem that most of them have taken a significant hit—if you look back at their net worth in 2017, a majority of them have grown their wealth, with a few exceptions. However, compared to last year’s list, there are now less billionaires in Malaysia (if you count their wealth in USD).

Notable figures who did not make it to the 2019 list include: Francis Yeoh and siblings of YTL, Lim Peng Cheong & Lim Peng Jin of Scientex, Lee Oi Hian & Lee Hau Hian of Batu Kawan and Surin Upatkoon of Magnum Berhad.

It is possible that they were victims of the previously mentioned stock market drops, and we’ll be looking at the 2020 list to see if they recover.

If you would like to see the full Forbes List of Billionaires for 2019, you can check it out here

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Feature Image Credit: Forbes/ SCMP/ Quek Leng Chan

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