Robert Kuok retains top spot on Forbes Malaysia Rich List despite shrinking wealth

Business tycoon Robert Kuok has held top spot on the Forbes Malaysia Rich List for over two decades. (Facebook pic)

SINGAPORE: Malaysia’s slowing economy, now hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, has taken a toll on its tycoons, according to Forbes Asia which released its 2020 Forbes Malaysia Rich List today.

It said the wealth of the country’s 50 richest fell for a second straight year due to a weaker ringgit and a nearly 10% decline in the country’s benchmark stock index.

Their collective net worth of US$79 billion is down 7.0% from a year ago, it said.

Nonagenarian business legend Robert Kuok took the top spot again with a net worth of US$11.5 billion, a position he has held for over two decades.

He is among four individuals whose wealth shrank by more than US$1 billion in the past year.

Retaining his No.2 spot was Quek Leng Chan of Hong Leong Group, who added US$300 million to his fortune of US$9.7 billion.

Ananda Krishnan of Maxis took third spot with a net worth of US$5.9 billion, down US$300 million from the year before.

The hardest-hit in dollar terms was banking tycoon Teh Hong Piow (No.5, US$4.85 billion).

The founder of Public Bank saw his fortune buffeted by headwinds in the banking industry, slipping two spots from No.3 last year.

Teh saw US$1.85 billion shaved off his wealth since the last list as shares in Public Bank, the country’s second largest bank by market value, declined roughly 30%.

Lim Kok Thay (No.7, US$3.2 billion) and Hap Seng’s Lau Cho Kun (No.10, US$2.3 billion) also saw their wealth slide by more than US$1 billion as their fortunes fell by US$1.2 billion and US$1.1 billion respectively.

AirAsia’s Tony Fernandes (No.41) and Kamarudin Meranun (No.43) saw more than a third of their fortunes drop, to US$335 million and US$315 million respectively.

In all, 22 individuals suffered a slide in their net worth from a year ago although an equal number were modestly better off.

Among the latter group was casino mogul Chen Lip Keong, who moved into the top five for the first time at No.4.

Booming growth at Chen’s NagaWorld casino complex in Cambodia, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, helped push his net worth up 6.0% to US$5.3 billion.

Another notable gainer was Kuan Kam Hon (No.9), who controls Hartalega Holdings, the world’s largest maker of nitrile gloves.

His net worth grew US$400 million to US$2.8 billion, from US$2.4 billion a year ago.

There are five newcomers on the list, the richest of whom are a pair of inheritors.

Debuting at No.6 are brothers Lee Yeow Chor and Lee Yeow Seng, who share a combined US$4.8 billion legacy left by their father Lee Shin Cheng, the architect of the IOI palm oil and property empire who passed away last June.

Other new entries include tech entrepreneurs Chu Jenn Weng (No.47, US$280 million), founder of electronics maker ViTrox, and former Hewlett-Packard engineer Oh Kuang Eng (No.50, US$255 million), whose Mi Technovation makes semiconductor equipment.