Robert Kuok Hock Nien is a prominent Malaysian Chinese businessman. Almost all of his businesses are controlled by him or his household. Apart from a significant amount of businesses in Malaysia, his corporations have investments in many countries throughout Asia. His businesses range from sugarcane plantations (Perlis Plantations Bhd), sugar processing plants, flour milling, animal feed, fossil fuels, mining, finance, hotels, properties, trading, merchandise and publishing. His biggest source of wealth is from Wilmar International, the world's leading palm oil corporation. The estimated worth of the conglomerate that he controls is RM 123.8 Billion or $37.8 Billion USD.
Kuok was born on October 6 1923 in Johor Bahru, one of the states in Malaysia that is just north of Singapore. Kuok's father arrived in Malaysia (then Malaya) from Fujian, China and ran a shop selling rice, sugar and flour. Kuok begin his working career as an office boy.
He has also worked in the grains department of Japanese industrial conglomerate Mitsubishi between 1942 and 1945. When his father died in 1948, he and his two brothers founded Kuok Brothers Sdn Bhd which traded in commodities. Kuok started to invest heavily in the sugar industry and controlled 80% of the Malaysian sugar market producing 1.5 million tonnes of sugar which is about 10% of the world's sugar. As a result of that, he was nicknamed "Sugar King of Asia".
Richest Man in Malaysia
According to Forbes on Feb 2012, his net worth is estimated to be around $14.7 billion, making him the richest person in Malaysia and second richest in Southeast Asia after Dhanin Chearavanont of Thailand. The most recent Forbes' List of World Billionaires 2013 placed Robert Kuok at 76th in terms of wealth. Currently, he is the 40th richest person in the world. On Jan 31 2013, Bloomberg Billionaire Index stated that Kuok's wealth has grown to $19.4 Billion. The 90 year old Billionaire keeps a low profile and is not very well known even in his own country.
Wilmar International (World's Biggest Processor of Palm Oil)
Wilmar International business activities include oil palm cultivation, edible oils processing, oilseeds crushing and consumer pack edible oils merchandising. Its specialties are fats, oleochemicals, and biodiesel research, grains processing and merchandising. It has over 450 manufacturing plants and a wide distribution network which includes China, India, Indonesia and some 50 other countries. Wilmar is the world's biggest processor of palm oil.
Other Work and Businesses
Robert Kuok also has a stake in Yurun Food Group, Hong Kong-listed Shangri-la Hotels, Kerry Properties, Malaysian Bulk Carriers Berhad and Transmile Group. Robert Kuok also controls the South China Morning Post, once the world's most popular newspaper. The companies that he controls pump lots of money into mainland China. His investments in his ancestral home includes Beijing's tallest building and cooking oil brands that have manage to capture 50% of the market share in China.
Kuok has married twice and has eight children. Kuok denies the fact that he has been married twice and condemns the rumors circulated by the media. One of his sons, Kuok Khoon Ean, now takes care of most of the day-to-day operations of Shangri-La Asia which the family owns 50%. He currently lives in Hong Kong.
The Kuok Foundation
In the 1970s, the Kuok family founded the Kuok Foundation in order to alleviate poverty and to reduce the economic disparities between the rich and poor communities in Malaysia. This foundation provides study loans and grant to deserving Malaysian students. A few scholarships were also given at postgraduate level for specific field of study.