[Artikel ini asalnya ditulis oleh member-member kami kat Soscili. Kalau nak baca artikel ni dalam BM, klik sini!]
For some reason, how much money you make have always been an uncomfortable issue to talk about for a lot of people… unless, of course, the balance in one of your many bank accounts looks like an international phone number. Then the rest of us might take your picture and make a godawful inspirational meme to put on Facebook and Tumblr, like so:
In case you have no idea who the hay that handsome fella with a wistful smile in that meme is, that’s Robert Kuok, the founder of the famous Shangri-La hotels, and he’s by far the richest man in Malaysia (115th in the world) for some time now. His net worth is estimated to be RM49.9 billion. To give you an idea of how rich that is, here’s a Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita, dubbed as one of the most expensive cars available.
The website we took the picture from listed the price as USD 4.8 million, or about RM18.7 million each. Theoretically, if he wanted, Robert Kuok could buy a hundred of those cars and a hundred medium-sized private islands, and he would still be the richest man in Malaysia.
But why the sudden interest in Robert Kuok? Well, the Star recently did a feature on 40 of Malaysia’s richest persons (hereafter referred to as ‘the List’, with a capital L), and we’ve pored over it and found some interesting things. Things like…
1. Mokhzani Mahathir fell off the List (along with some others)
Mohkzani Mahathir is one of the sons of our ex-prime minister, Dr Mahathir. If you’ve been following political issues, you’ve probably known that there’s been a bit of a controversy surrounding the wealth of Dr Mahathir’s family. While Mokhzani had been on the top 40 list since 2014, last year he dropped off of it entirely.
He was once the second-richest Malay (ninth richest overall) in Malaysia in 2014, with a wealth of RM 4.22 billion. While his wealth almost doubled from the previous year (2013), things went downhill from there. In 2015, his wealth dropped down to RM 1.64 billion, and it continued to drop in 2016 to RM 1.07 billion. This crash had led to some questioning whether his spot on the 10 Top Richest Malaysians list in 2014 was really due to his business acumen or something else.
However, the dropping out of the List might not be so surprising if you consider that it only takes into account the value of the listed shares owned by the 40 individuals, not counting the debt taken to buy those shares. Other than Mokhzani, a few other names fell off the list as well, notably Tan Sri Shahril Shamsuddin (of Sapura Energy Bhd) and Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King (of Rimbunan Hijau Group).
2. There’s a muhibbah duo who shared the same spot on the list
Eh? Can share spots ah? Well, apparently they can. There are several entries on the list that consists of more than one person, and in all of them they either share a company or share… shares. Anyways, at number 19, we have Wong Thean Soon and Datuk Norraesah Mohamad. Wong Thean Soon (43) had been on the list last year, together with Raja Munir Shah Raja Mustapha on the 24th place. Their wealth came from two companies: MyEG Services Bhd and Excel Force MSC Bhd. You may remember MyEG as an online government service provider. In fact, you might have registered foreign worker permits or paid traffic or JPJ fines through it.
But where does Datuk Norraesah Mohamad come in? Well, Norraesah (69) was a senator and a chairman for the Bank Kerjasama Rakyat Malaysia. She recently became one of MyEG’s biggest shareholders, when Raja Munir sold off his share of the company (29.7%) to her last year. Now, Norraesah holds about 30.41% of MyEG’s shares. Norraesah is now the executive chairman of MyEG, while Wong Thean Soon is the managing director. Both of them has a net worth of RM3.36 billion.
3. These brothers made RM10 billion last year, jumping up 6 places!
You’ve heard that right. Tan Sri Koon Poh Keong and Koon Poh Min both were the 14th richest Malaysians in 2016 (worth RM3.17 billion), but last year they jumped up six steps on the list, being the 8th richest in 2017 (RM13.07 billion). Wahlao!
Are they single What do they do for a living?
Well, basically, they supply aluminium. The Koon brother’s company is Press Metal Aluminium Holdings Bhd, and last year the company’s shares leapt 200%, elevating their wealth from RM3.17 billion to RM13.07 billion within a year! This is partly due to the rise in aluminum prices by around RM8,500 per ton (or USD2,200).
Who knew a company that started out in 1986 with only 12 workers can grow so much? Besides Malaysia, this company also operates in China.
4. Maxis’ owner and DRB-HICOM’s owner both moved down the list
For over a decade, Ananda Krishnan stayed as second richest man in Malaysia after Robert Kuok. However, in 2016, Ananda fell down to 4th richest, and 5th last year. But even if he did drop down one stage, his wealth actually increased from RM20 billion to RM20.4 billion last year. It’s just that his increase in wealth is still small compared to other billionaires.
Just to other billionaires la, of course. If a normal person saved up RM1,000 every month until retirement, he or she still won’t make that RM0.4 billion. *sobs in 9-to-5*
Syed Mokhtar, on the other hand, had been famous for being the only Bumiputra ever to make it into the Top 10 Richest Malaysians list, being in the 10th place in 2016. However, in 2017, Syed Mokhtar finally left the top 10, being the 14th richest in the country, and just like Ananda, while he fell in ranking, his wealth increased from RM5 billion (2016) to RM5.25 billion (2017).
MMC Corp, of which he owned 52%, remained the biggest contributor to his wealth. However, DRB Hicom Bhd, the company that owns Proton, Bank Muamalat and Pos Malaysia, had to let go a large amount of its shares to Geely Holding Group Co Ltd recently, and that probably had something to do with the drop.
By now, you’re probably wondering…
5. More than half of these people make money through real estate
Contrary to Asian parent beliefs, none of them became rich through doctoring or lawyering. We did a cursory count of what these people do to become so rich, and most of them are either in real estate (22 billionaires), palm oil (7) or oil and gas (4).
But before you drop what you’re doing and rush into real estate, bear in mind that the government had advised developers to really think about it before starting any projects. Even though real estate puts a lot of caviar on a lot of the billionaires’ plates, Malaysia has a huge problem in the form of unsold property. Earlier this year, the other Finance Minister, Johari Ghani, warned of a ‘housing bubble‘ if this problem is not addressed anytime soon. But what is this ‘housing bubble’?
“A housing bubble is when property prices rise due to demand, speculation and the industry’s liveliness. Things get more complicated when speculators enter the market and drive demand. That bubble will burst when property prices far exceed the actual price of the property,” – Excerpt from Astro Awani.
Anyways, there’s really no guaranteed field that will make you rich. While China’s and Singapore’s richest men are indeed in the real estate business, the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, is the founder of Amazon, which is as far from real estate as it gets. His estimated net worth is USD90.6 billion.
Whoah. These people are super rich! Is Malaysia a rich country after all?
Last year had been generally good for business, and billionaires seem to have benefited the most from that. If you were to add the combined assets of the top 40 richest Malaysians at the end of last year, it would amount to RM290.48 billion, which is almost as much as Malaysia made last year in GDP (RM342.8 billion). This number is 28% more than last year’s 40 top billionaires’ riches combined (RM226.86 billion). But that’s just the top 40. What about the other billionaires? Actually, how many billionaires do we even have?
According to Oxfam International, a global organization that works to free the world of poverty, 2017 was the year when the biggest increase in the world’s number of billionaires in history, with one new person becoming a billionaire every two days. In Malaysia, the number of ultra high net worth individuals (people having more than USD30 million/RM130 million in assets, UNHWIs for short) is growing. In 2016, there are a total of 1,020 UNHWIs in Malaysia, compared to 990 in 2015.
As for high net worth individuals (HNWIs, having at least USD1 million in assets), we have 26,261 in 2015, and the number is expected to reach 30,402 in 2020. In fact, in 2013 Kuala Lumpur was the city with the highest number of millionaires in the world (13,800), even surpassing Abu Dhabi (12,500) and Cape Town (8,753). While people had taken this as an indicator of Malaysia’s fast growing wealth, some had taken it to show the increasing gap between the rich and the oh-my-god-there’s-still-a-week-to-payday population in Malaysia. So perhaps Malaysians as a whole aren’t as rich as we thought we are.