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The Fascinating Business Empire of Robert Kuok, Malaysia’s Richest Man

Robert Kuok was born in 1923 in what’s now known as the State of Johor in Malayisia. His family was in the business of trading rice, flour and sugar. Today, Robert Kuok’s business empire spans the globe with his group controlling numerous listed entities in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

How it all begun

After the Second World War, Robert Kuok started building a business based on trading in soft commodities, particularly in sugar. By the 1970’s, his company was so influential in the sugar market that he was named as the “Sugar King”. Since then, Kuok has diversified his business into other commodities, properties, shipping, logistics, oil & gas, hospitality, financial services and publishing.

As his businesses grew, he moved his headquarters from Malaysia to Hong Kong where he still operates from today. Since the 1950s, he has focused on expanding his business in China; the Middle Kingdom continues to be his focal point even today.

Companies in Singapore

In Singapore, the Kuok Group holds significant investments in many listed entities. Most notably, it is the largest shareholder in Wilmar International (SGX: F34), a major player in the global commodities industry by virtue of it being one of the largest palm oil and sugar suppliers to key markets like China and India. The company’s co-founded by Kuok Khoon Hong, who happens to be the nephew of Robert Kuok.

The Kuok Group also has interests in Shangri-La Asia (SGX: S07). The Shangri-La brand was created by Robert Kuok when he entered the hospitality business. It is dual-listed in Singapore and Hong Kong and is actually an ADR (American Depositary Receipt) that’s also listed in the US market. The company owns and manages hospitality assets all over the world under the brands Shangri-La, Traders and Kerry Hotels.

Robert Kuok is also involved in the oil & gas services sector with the newly-listed PACC Offshore Services Holdings (SGX: U6C), better known as POSH. The company operates in four main segments: 1) Offshore supply vessels; 2) Transportation and Installation; 3) Offshore Accommodation; and 4) Harbour Services and Emergency Response. The company is a spinoff from the Malaysia-listed Malaysian Bulk Carriers Berhad.

Foolish Summary

Robert Kuok is the driving force behind the Kuok Group and with his relentless pursuit of growth in his business empire, it has made him into the richest man in Malaysia with a net worth estimated at US$11.5 billion by Forbes as of February 2014.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Stanley Lim owns Wilmar International.