Tycoons on the 2021 Forbes Malaysia Rich List saw a rebound in their collective wealth as it rose 14% to nearly US$90 billion (RM371 billion) this year, after declining for two years.
Forbes said Robert Kuok, who presides over a property and commodities empire, continues to top the list with a fortune of US$12.2 billion and, at age 97, is the oldest member of the list.
Quek Leng Chan, meanwhile, the second-generation head of the privately held Hong Leong group, remains at #2 with US$9.6 billion.
Forbes said Malaysia’s pandemic-hit economy, which contracted 5.6% in 2020, was expected to get back on track this year.
“But the country is now grappling with a surge of Covid-19 cases.
“While the benchmark stock index was up a modest 2.5% since fortunes were last measured 15 months ago, the nation’s 50 richest saw their combined wealth increase to nearly US$90 billion, up from US$79 billion a year ago,” it said.
Forbes noted that this reversal of fortune can partly be attributed to the country’s dominant position as the medical glove maker to the world.
In a pandemic year, as global demand for such protective gear increased significantly, Malaysian exports of rubber gloves doubled, boosting the wealth of the nation’s largest producers, it said.
Five of them feature among the 50 richest, with two, Kuan Kam Hon (#7, US$3.8 billion) of Hartalega Holdings and Lim Wee Chai (#8, US$3.5 billion) of Top Glove, ranked in the top ten.
Koon Poh Keong, who shares a metal fortune with four siblings, was this year’s biggest dollar gainer.
Shares of their Press Metal Aluminium Holdings were up as the metal’s prices recovered, adding US$3.4 billion to their wealth and propelling Koon and his brothers to third place with a net worth of US$6.4 billion, said Forbes.
Returning to the list are Lim Kuang Sia (#14, US$1.4 billion), who controls Kossan Rubber Industries with his siblings, and Stanley Thai (#20, US$1.1 billion) who co-founded and runs Supermax Corp with his wife Cheryl Tan.
There are five newcomers on this year’s list, said Forbes.
Among them are brothers Tan Yu Yeh and Yu Wei of Mr DIY Group, a listed home improvement chain, who are the richest newcomers at #10 with US$2.7 billion.
The other four new entrants are all based in Penang, a busy tech hub, which benefited from US-China trade tensions as global companies sought to diversify supply chains.
They are Tan Eng Kee (#22, US$965 million), cofounder of Greatech Technology, a maker of factory automation equipment, Ng Chai Eng (#37, US$450 million) and Lau Chee Kheong (#38, US$445 million), cofounders of engineering services firm UWC, and Steven Siaw Kok Teng (#49, US$325 million), cofounder of ViTrox, a maker of high-precision machine inspection systems.
However, the pandemic took its toll on 19 listees, whose fortunes fell. Among the hardest hit were casino moguls Chen Lip Keong (#9, US$3.4 billion) and Lim Kok Thay (#11, US$2.55 billion).
Seven from last year’s list dropped out, notably the AirAsia duo, Tony Fernandes and Kamarudin Meranun, as the ongoing pandemic dimmed hopes of a revival in travel.
The minimum net worth to make the list this year was US$315 million, up from US$255 million last year.
The top 10 richest in Malaysia are:
- Robert Kuok; US$12.2 billion
- Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan; US$9.6 billion
- Tan Sri Koon Poh Keong & siblings; US$6.4 billion
- Ananda Krishnan; US$5.8 billion
- Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow; US$5.5 billion
- Datuk Lee Yeow Chor & Lee Yeow Seng; US$4.9 billion
- Kuan Kam Hon; US$3.8 billion
- Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai; US$3.5 billion
- Tan Sri Chen Lip Keong; US$3.4 billion
- Tan Yu Yeh & Yu Wei; US$2.7 billion