So you might have heard that the Equanimity, aka Jho Low’s former yacht, had been sold off to Genting recently. This more or less wrapped up that particular section of the 1MDB saga, but today we won’t be talking about that. Rather, let’s have some fun with the numbers. We’ve heard that it cost RM1 billion to build, and Genting bought it for about RM500 million. But what does that mean, exactly?
If you’re anything like us, you would have became somewhat desensitized to ‘billions’ and ‘millions’ of ringgit being thrown around in the news on a regular basis. So telling us that this yacht costs one billion ringgit is a bit like telling someone who never went to a pasar that a bunch of kangkung costs RM5: it may or may not be correct, but it sounds about right. So in light of the Equanimity formally being sold off, we’d like to put some of the figures surrounding the yacht into perspective.
And just like a pasar-going auntie might yell “RM5 for kangkung?! You crazy ah?“, maybe you’ll go “RM1 billion for a boat?! You crazy ah?” after reading this article. Actually… that might not be that crazy.
Equanimity’s original cost of RM1 billion: cheap or expensive?
Based on reports, back in 2014, Jho Low was believed to have commissioned around U$D250 mil to build the Equanimity, or about RM1 billion. Is that too much or too little to pay for a
yacht superyacht? Well, we dunno really, but what we do know is that a tin of biskut costs around RM16. Being the peasants that we are, we turned to Google for the prices of famous superyachts.
For ease of comparison, we’ll be looking at the cost to build the yachts, or how much a particular person commissions for it to be built. So if you search for the ‘most expensive yacht’, you’ll probably come across a yacht called ‘History Supreme‘, a titanium-and-gold-plated beauty that is said to cost £2.8 billion (or RM14.93 billion). What’s more, rumor has it that it’s owned by another Malaysian businessman, most likely Robert Kuok. That sounds mind-boggling, but in reality, RM14 billion is kind of an unrealistic price for a yacht.
As it turned out, History Supreme never existed, being just a publicity stunt. Most of the time, top-end superyachts cost somewhere around RM1-2 billion to build, and smaller ones may cost even cheaper. The Eclipse, owned by Russian businessman and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, is said to cost €340 million (or RM1.56 billion). On the other hand, the Azzam, said to be the longest yacht in the world, was said to have cost USD 600 million (or RM2.45 billion). Paul Allen‘s (Microsoft co-founder) superyacht the Octopus reportedly cost USD200 million (or RM818 million).
Many factors come into play when determining the cost of a superyacht, and according to this Forbes article, USD275 million (RM1.12 billion) is the average price for a 100-meter superyacht with a top speed of 25 knots and 50 crew members. For comparison, the Equanimity measures 91.5 meters, has a top speed of 19 knots and has 28 crew members, so it being a bit cheaper than that kind of checks out.
While the Equanimity may have a normal price for a superyacht…
How does it compare to other things super-rich people buy?
So maybe the Equanimity’s cost isn’t that outstanding when it comes to yachts. But there’s a reason why if you want to portray ultra-richness in movies, you have the characters owning or at least chilling on a yacht. It’s like the ultimate “I-have-buckets-of-cash-and-I-dunno-what-else-to-do-with-it” statement. We’ll get into why that is in a moment, but for now, we’ve come up with several things that rich people may buy and put it in a chart against the Equanimity.
We actually tried putting something more normal on the chart, like a Myvi, but the price difference is so great (a Myvi costs around RM42k, or RM0.04 million) that it does not show up at all. But in case you’re wondering, one Equanimity is worth roughly 23,419 Myvis 😥 .
Anyways, perhaps surprisingly, the cheapest extravagant item that will show up on the chart is a private island. The island we’re talking about is a 75-acre island on the Phillipines called Dumunpalit Island, with beaches and coral reefs surrounding it, and according to the price listed on Private Islands Online, you can have it for a mere USD3.4 million (or RM13.9 million). There are islands more expensive than this, but this one feels like value for money. *cough* peasant *cough*
Moving up a bit, the next thing is a collector’s item: the iconic dress worn by Marilyn Monroe when she did that whole skirt thing in The Seven Year Itch (1955).
That dress was sold for USD5.6 million (or RM22.9 million) at a 2011 auction, which is crazy pricey for a dress but still cheap in the scheme of things. As for cars, the most expensive one we could find is a one-of-a-kind Bugatti made of carbon fibre called La Voiture Noire, and it was sold to an anonymous enthusiast for €16.7 million (or RM76.72 million), including tax.
Going a bit more local, remember how back then the Defense Ministry was considering new fighter jets to replace our old ones? One of the models considered was the French Dassault Rafale, and while the price can change based on negotiations between the governments, the B model can cost USD83 million (or RM339.48 million). But maybe jets aren’t your thing.
How about a TV station? We can’t tell the normal price for one, but back in 2005 Media Prima bought off ntv7 for a hefty sum of RM90 million, after agreeing to settle its debts of RM145 million, so let’s put that number at RM235 million.
As for buildings, the Penang Bridge (the first one), measuring 13.5 kms, cost the government RM800 million to build, excluding the cost of land acquisition. Yet all of these barely comes close to the Equanimity’s cost. As for how a boat can be even more expensive than a freaking bridge, well, new yachts like the Equanimity are usually custom-made according to the owner’s wishes, and that kind of jacks up the price by a lot.
To be fair though, there are a lot of other things more expensive than that yacht, like the famous Mona Lisa (valued at USD830 million/RM3.39 billion) or the KLCC tower (having cost USD1.6 billion/RM6.54 billion to build), but the point is you can have a lot more for the price of a superyacht, and they’ll probably be less of a pain in the future: yachts generally cost 10% of their original price to maintain each year.
With the government footing that bill for the past eight months, you may be wondering…
How much did the government actually get back from the Equanimity?
After eight months of trying to sell off the Equanimity, it was finally sold to Genting Malaysia Berhad earlier this month for a little over half of its original value at RM514.14 million. While in the beginning some had been optimistic of recovering more from the Equanimity’s sale, with a London-based ship-valuation firm valuing the yacht at somewhere around RM712 million, it would seem that circumstances surrounding the Equanimity had made it not very attractive.
The government seemed happy with that price though, saying that Genting had been the highest bidder, and they kind of want to get the yacht off their hands as soon as possible as the maintenance is kinda pricey.
“Definitely the best price they could offer. We are in support of it because for the last eight months, the government has been paying over RM14.2mil (to maintain it). That is a very big amount. If we can sell it quickly and get the best price possible, we don’t have to bear this sum (sic),” – Lim Guan Eng, Finance Minister, as reported by The Star.
As we mentioned earlier, plenty of sites that advise potential yacht-buyers estimate the money needed to maintain a yacht is roughly 10% of its original price per year, which when you think about it is like buying two yachts if you keep it for ten years. As for why it costs so much to keep a yacht, that amount covers things like paying the crew, administrative costs (insurance, etc), dockage (parking), fuel, and general maintenance, like fixing wear and tear and repainting.
And the cost can be even higher if you’re entertaining: unless you’re going for that down-to-earth image, you wouldn’t invite a bunch of people on your yacht and expect to serve them Super Ring and boxed chrysanthemum tea and sit around playing I Spy. While a yacht expert had said that the amount the government spent in maintaining the Equanimity had been unusually high, that amount also included spending associated to selling the yacht as well.
Regardless of all that, after the upkeep and selling costs we can say that the government managed to recover RM499.94 million, or about 49.9% of the original amount spent on it. Wonder what the government will do with that money? There’s no announcements about that yet, but hypothetically let’s see how much of a dent it would make in some of the more famous issues in Malaysia…Welp. That’s depressing. Well, we may not have made much money from that, but if anything, the sale of the Equanimity is proof that corruption cases related to 1MBD did happen, as the sale wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. At least, according to Lim Guan Eng, anyway.
“They say that 1MDB was a lie. If it was a lie, then how can we sell Equanimity to Genting Malaysia Bhd for US$126mil (RM514.14mil)? It is proof that 1MDB really happened. Equanimity and the luxury bags weren’t lies, they were real. The bags of money were not false stories. Public funds were involved,” – Lim Guan Eng, as reported by the Star.
We still don’t know how much more missing funds from the alleged previous corruptions can the government recover, but with the Equanimity sold off and kind of settled, perhaps we can be optimistic and look forward to more in the future.