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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Malaysia Records RM139.5 Billion Realised Private Investment In 2012, Surpasses Target

17 Rabiulakhir 1434

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 , 2013- Malaysia recorded RM139.5 billion in realised private investment last year, surpassing by 9.1 per cent the targeted investment of RM127.9 billion, Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said Wednesday.

Compared with 2011,the realised private investment grew 24.8 per cent from RM111.8 billion, he said.

Unveiling the investment performance for 2012, Mustapa said Malaysia attracted RM162.4 billion in approved investments last year, which was also the highest amount of investments ever despite the uncertain global economic conditions.

"Of the total investments approved, RM127.6 billion (78 percent) were contributed by domestic investments (DDI) and RM34.8 billion (22 percent) came from foreign investments.

"It is heartening to note that domestic investment inflows increased substantially by almost four times the FDIs achieved in 2012, a sure sign of confidence local business have in the country's ability to prosper its investors" he told reporters here Wednesday.

Of this, Mustapa said services accounted for 72.4 percent, manufacturing was 25.3 percent while primary sectors were at 2.3 percent.

"Much of 2012's investments were in the new and emerging technologies, particularly within the aerospace, semiconductors, solar, machinery and equipment, biotechnology, petroleum and petrochemical products and medical devices industries as well as the oil and gas services sector," the minister said.

The investments approved were in 6,442 projects and are expected to generate 182,841 job opportunities.

When asked whether the trend of declining FDI and increasing DDI would sustain in the coming years, he said last year was a bad year for FDI not only for Malaysia but also globally with some developed countries facing a recession while some Asian economies were experiencing lower growth.

"We believe there will be some recovery in the global economy. Europe and America will help to push the FDI numbers somewhat, so that's our expectation. We are expecting at least US$12 billion in terms of FDI this year, same as last year, with some recovery in electrical and electronics (E&E), which will certainly contribute to FDI this year," he said.

However, Mustapa said the DDI and FDI ratio which was about 78 and 22 percent respectively, was in line with the government's goal under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) in encouraging DDI to take the lead in driving the country's economic transformation on the back of global economic uncertainties.

As for this year's target, Mustapa said the government is looking at a similar 20 percent growth for private investment as reflected in realised investment and approved investment last year which grew by more than 20 percent.

Asked whether the upcoming election will affect the private investment numbers this year, he said that will not be the case.

"As we saw, last year was also rumoured to be an election year but we have done extremely well. From my conversation with investors, nobody is witholding this year's investment decisions. You can see it in Iskandar Malaysia, Medini as well as the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP), where there is continued foreign investment interest," he said.

Mustapa said Malaysia's reputation as a global and regional hub for manufacturing and services, has managed to attract investments that will accelerate the country's shift to high value-added, high technology, knowledge-intensive and innovation-based industries.

More information: BERNAMA

Monday, February 25, 2013

RHB Research Maintains neutral Call On Nestle

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 , 2013 - RHB Research has maintained a "neutral" call on Nestle (Malaysia) Bhd, with an unchanged fair value of RM61.38.

The research house said Nestle's better performance last year in securing a net profit of RM505.4 million, with an increase of 18.3 per cent year-on-year due to robust domestic sales, aided by its 100th anniversary in Malaysia marketing promotions.

"While domestic spending is projected to be relatively resilient this year, we are cautious on the impact on consumer spending from potential subsidy rationalisation post-general election," RHB Research said in a statement.

However, Nestle's strong brands and market position would enable the group to weather any weakness in consumer spending, it said.

More information: BERNAMA

Nestle Withdraws Exemption Application

15 Rabiulakhir 1434

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 , 2013 - Following a series of discussions with the Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC), Nestle Sdn Bhd has withdrawn its application for individual exemption.

In a statement issued today, MyCC said Nestle had previously filed an individual exemption application to exclude its pricing policy called the Brand Equity Protection Policy (BEPP) from the Competition Act 2010 (CA2010).

Nestle's pricing policy was a major concern for the MyCC as it has elements of Resale Price Maintenance (RPM), an anti-competitive conduct that prevents resellers from setting their prices independently, potentially leading to increased prices for consumers.

"While the MyCC recognises the rights of Nestle to promote and enhance its brand equity under the BEPP, the pricing policy as contained in the BEPP was likely to infringe section 4(1) of the CA2010 as it essentially constitutes a RPM.

More information: BERNAMA

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Maybank's Pre-tax Profit For 2012 Surges To RM7.894 Billion

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 , 2013 - Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) registered a higher pre-tax profit of RM7.894 billion for its financial year ended Dec 31, 2012 vis-a-vis RM6.875 billion in 2011.

Revenue for last year also surged to RM27.532 billion from RM23.741 billion in 2011.

Profit after tax for financial year 2012 stood at RM5.917 billion from RM5.121 billion in the previous year.

For the fourth quarter last year, Maybank posted a pre-tax profit of RM1.949 billion, on the back of RM7.027 billion in revenue.

Maybank Chairman Tan Sri Megat Zaharuddin Megat Mohd Nor said the group's results were boosted by sustained growth across most business sectors, complemented by strong contributions from its global operations, spanning 20 countries.

"Total operating income rose 12 per cent despite the challenging global economy as the group leveraged on its strong domestic positioning, diverse capabilities and regional network to grow its franchise and explore new market segments," he told a media briefing today.

Megat Zaharuddin said revenue growth was led by a 14 per cent increase in net fee-based income and 10.8 per cent increase in net fund-based income.

"Revenue grew ahead of overhead expenses, the result of continuous efforts to improve efficiency and implementation of a vigorous cost management exercise.

"These helped offset the pressure on net interest margins during the year," he said.

Maybank's group loans growth remained in double-digit territory, with a healthy 12.2 per cent rise, in addition to loans and debt Securities registering a higher growth of 12.9 per cent.

Deposits expanded strongly across the three home markets, reinforcing the group's regional franchise, with higher growth momentum recorded in Indonesia.

Gross group deposits rose 10.3 per cent to RM347.2 billion, led by a 22.3 per cent rise in Indonesia, followed by Singapore and Malaysia with a 12.7 per cent and 8.5 per cent rise, respectively.

Megat Zaharuddin said Maybank's board of directors had proposed a final dividend in respect of the 2012 financial year of 18 sen, less 25 per cent taxation and a 15 sen single-tier dividend on 8,440,046,735 ordinary shares of RM1 each for the shareholders' approval.

For the previous fiscal year ended Dec 31, 2011, Maybank proposed a final dividend of 36 sen per share, less 25 per cent taxation.

More information: BERNAMA

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Danga Bay JV Will Spur More Cross-Border Investments In Iskandar Malaysia

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JOHOR BAHARU, Feb 19 , 2013- Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman hopes joint-venture projects by Malaysia and Singapore companies in Danga Bay will help spur more cross-border transactions in Iskandar Malaysia.

Speaking during the signing ceremony of the Head of Agreement (HOA) between Iskandar Waterfront Sdn Bhd (IWSB), CapitaLand Ltd and Temasek Holdings today, he said the "big boys" in Singapore and across the region would take the cue from the historic event today.

"I am confident this will spur even more cross-border transactions as the "big boys" in Singapore and across the region will take the cue from Temasek and CapitaLand to explore more investment opportunities in Iskandar Malaysia," he said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong and several cabinet ministers from the two countries witnessed the signing ceremony at the Danga Bay Convention Centre here.

The three joint-venture partners inked the HOA to jointly acquire and develop parcels of land in Danga Bay known as "A2 Island".

The joint venture will acquire 71.4 acres or 3.1 million square feet of freehold net land in A2 Island, Danga Bay, for a purchase price of RM811 million (S$324 million), which will be paid over a period of four-and-a-half-years.

CapitaLand Malaysia, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CapitaLand Ltd, IWSB and Temasek will hold 51 per cent, 40 per cent and nine per cent stakes, respectively, in the joint venture.

Ghani said Johor welcomed more Singapore government-linked companies to enter into joint ventures with IWSB and other local enterprises to tap the potential for property development that Iskandar Malaysia has to offer.

"This joint venture between a Johor entity and two of the island republic's biggest economic players will give confidence to others waiting on the sidelines that investment in Iskandar Malaysia is an opportunity not to be missed," he said.

He said Johor and Singapore enjoyed a long-standing, friendly and multi-faceted relationship that are bound by common history, intimate geography and deep abiding social ties.

More information: BERNAMA

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Palm Oil Stocks In January Fall 1.9 Per Cent

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13, 2013- Palm oil stocks fell 1.9 per cent to 2.58 million tonnes in January this year from the 2.63 million tonnes in December 2012, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) said Wenesday.

It said crude palm oil (CPO) stocks dipped 0.96 per cent to 1.56 million tonnes in January.

Processed palm oil stocks lost 3.31 per cent to 1.02 million tonnes, it added in a statement.

Palm kernel stocks declined 14.03 per cent to 161,319 tonnes but crude palm kernel oil stocks expanded 3.47 per cent to 296,354 tonnes.

Processed palm kernel oil stocks fell 5.04 per cent to 170,485 tonnes but palm kernel cake stocks rose 0.19 per cent to 466,839 tonnes.

The MPOB said CPO production last month fell 9.98 per cent to 1.602 million tonnes from the 1.780 million tonnes previously.

Palm kernel production was down 7.68 per cent to 413,232 tonnes, while crude palm kernel oil output was 10.79 per cent lower at 199,807 tonnes, and palm kernel cake production slid 11.31 per cent to 220,897 tonnes.

Palm oil exports declined 1.61 per cent to 1.62 million tonnes last month as compared to December, while palm kernel oil exports fell 9.45 per cent to 102,941 tonnes.

It said palm kernel cake exports jumped 41.09 per cent to 294,962 tonnes, but oleochemicals exports were 2.64 per cent weaker at 221,024 tonnes, and biodiesel exports surged 49.31 per cent to 9,407 tonnes.

More information: BERNAMA

S&P Ratings On MISC, Petronas Not Affected By Proposed Takeover

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 , 2013 - Standard & Poor's Rating Services (S&P) said its ratings on MISC Bhd and Petronas will not be affected by Petronas' proposed conditional takeover of the shipping corporation.

It said the proposed transaction supported its assessment of MISC's strategic importance to its parent company, Petronas.

"In addition, the transaction is unlikely to have any effect on Petronas' financial risk profile," it said in a statement.

Petronas currently owned about 63 per cent of MISC.

The rating on MISC incorporated a three-notch uplift from the company's stand-alone credit profile of 'bb' to reflect strong business and financial support from Petronas.

"As a majority-owned subsidiary, MISC is already consolidated in Petronas' accounts.

"We believe that Petronas has sufficient financial resources to complete the takeover.

"Petronas' financial risk profile is "minimal" and its liquidity is "strong", as our criteria defines these terms," it added.

Recently, Petronas proposed to take MISC private with a cash offer of RM5.30 per share for what it does not already own.

More information: BERNAMA

SilTerra in global fast lane

3 Rabiulakhir 1434

Khazanah Nasional Bhd's semiconductor wafer foundry SilTerra Malaysia Sdn Bhd has to work overtime these days with its plant running at maximum capacity to meet growing global orders.

"Our jobs are completely sold out for the first and second quarters of this year," says chief exectuiveexecutive Dr Kamarulzaman Mohd Zin, adding that with demand thrice its capacity, SilTerra is now boot-strapped to the fast lane.

It will soon be getting jobs from Tier 1 electronic companies for this year and more Asian giants are likely to hook up with its Kulim Hi Tech Park plant as they divert their supply chain ex-China.

Purchase orders are coming in for the chips which are already found in most of the top brand mobile applications, particularly in the display drivers of smartphones.

Google Nexus 4, which is tagged as one of the world's best smartphones, LG Optimus G or the Amazon Kindle e-reader tablet , all have touch controller , with the SilTerra chip.

SilTerra, which has spread its wings in the global tech scene, is today more well-known in Taiwan and China and the giants of the industry worldwide , than in Malaysia.

Malaysia has the attributes to be a sustainable semiconductor fabrication hub for mature technology market (0.22 to 0.09 micron) and it is cost competitive cost-competitive compared to with Taiwan, Korea South Korea and Singapore.

Also, the US IDMs and European foundries are keen to explore extendingextend their footprintfootprints in Malaysia.

Things are already looking up for SilTerra with negative cash flow tides having having been reversed sharply over the past five years.

"We have been operating profitably for five years now, running in a sustainable manner," said Kamarulzaman said, in an interview here last week.

Annual operating profits is are around RM50 million per year and this can be sustained for at least three more years with minimal capital requirements.

But despite its flourishing profits curvecurves, Kamarulzaman admits that he gets flustered by the negative public perception SilTerra is often placed in.

Often mistaken for the others in the assembly and test and product assembly, which describes the traditional electrical and electronics (E&E) industry in Malaysia, SilTerra actually stands inat the top end of an industry where the gestation period can take up to a decade before one can enjoy positive returns.

But that is now all in the past as SilTerra has been kept very busy, having finally found its niche in the small panel display drivers (below five inches). ,However, it is continually continuously facing challenging demands for high and greater resolution as it keeps up with the latest technology.

"It is a challenging industry but one that will always look north, what with electronics already embedded in our lives , from telecommunications, healthcare to transportation," Kamarulzaman said.

SilTerra is ranked number 15 (based on revenue) in the global ranking of leading pure-play foundries, where it serves the mature tech segment of the market valued at US$30 billion (RM90 billion) per year.

One of the reasons for SilTerra to be mired in difficulties in its early years was its attempts to be in the race with the global players.

The big four - highly-capitalised TSMC (Taiwan), Global Foundries (US), UMC Group (Taiwan) and SMIC (China) - control 75 per cent of the global market share, leaving companies like SilTerra to depend on "sustainable scraps" which it considers as substantial.

Cumulatively, SilTerra has exported RM5 billion worth of products since 2001, out of which 75 per cent has local value-added.

The Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) recognises that aspect and Kamarulzaman also pointed out that SilTerra has alreadyachieved many of the targets. envisioned by ETP.

"Local value-adding to its annual revenue of RM500 million to RM600 millon is measured at 70 per cent, far higher than the overall E&E industry average of 25 per cent. of the overall electrical and electronics (E&E) industry."

On the prospects of listing SilTerra's listing prospects, Kamarulzaman said it will likely take place once the debts are cleared.

SilTerraThe company hashad cummulative losses totalling RM7.3 billion for the 10 years up till 2011 which werewas one of the main reasons it has been placed in bad light.

"But have a look at the numbers -as 79 per cent is due to depreciation and impairment plus financing costs (due to initial hefty borrowings), and it has nothing to do with our operations," he said, adding that the company can turn around into profits.

Revenue totalled RM4.8 billion to date while the EBIDTA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortisation), which was negative in the initial three yearyears, turned positive for seven years out of the 12 years.

More information: Business Times Malaysia

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Golden Palm Growers Scheme Well Planned

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GUA MUSANG, Feb 10 , 2013- The Golden Palm Growers Scheme has been well planned and will not be affected by problems faced by other similar agricultural based investment schemes, said the Executive Chairman of Golden Palm Growers Bhd, Andrew Phang.

"Our plantation in Gua Musang has been moving according to plan and will move forward as promised.

"All schemes are different, every scheme is structured very differently and our business model is structured to reflect the stage of growth of the trees.

"We will pay to investors the returns when the trees start to give commercial yields in six years time which is 2016 and that way we never had a mismatch between revenue and our payout to investors," he told Bernama during a tour of the company's estate here.

While the company's plantations may have similar external problems as what other plantations face, but with proper management, these obstacles could be overcome, he said.

Golden Palm Growers since 2010 has been involved in the oil palm plantation business, in particular the development and subsequent management of oil palm plantations.

It operates an oil palm plantation of approximately 4,550 hectares in Gua Musang, Kelantan.

A total of 44,000 growers' plots have been created in the plantation where each plot is about a quarter acre and costs RM9,600 per plot.

Under the scheme, investors could regain a guaranteed return of six per cent per annum plus a bonus for up to 2016.

More information: BERNAMA

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Robert Kuok says empire can last generations

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WHEN billionaire Robert Kuok introduced a luxury hotel brand in 1971, he named it Shangri-La, after the fictional utopia in which inhabitants enjoy unheard-of longevity.

Ensconced in his executive suite 32 floors above Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor - the room decorated with a pair of elephant tusks gifted by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first prime minister of Malaysia - the world's 38th-richest person appears to have defied the aging process himself.

Kuok has accumulated a fortune of US$19.2 billion (RM59.52 billion) as of January 31, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Trim, dapper and straight backed at 89, he shows no signs of stopping there, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its March issue.

This year, the media-shy Malaysian-born magnate will likely open his 71st sumptuously appointed Shangri-La. Six of them are scheduled to be opened in the third quarter alone, including one perched in the Shard, the 72-storey London skyscraper that's the tallest office building in Western Europe.

Meanwhile, the public and private companies his family controls continue to pump money into his ancestral homeland, China, where his investments range from Beijing's tallest building to cooking oil brands that have gained a 50 per cent market share in the world's most populous nation.

One of Kuok's companies, Singapore-listed Wilmar International Ltd, is the world's biggest processor of palm oil and eighth-biggest sugar producer.

Others operate shipping and logistics businesses, a property portfolio stretching from Paris to Sydney and East Asia's most influential English-language newspaper, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

"He's so vital, so active and continues to be so personally powerful," says Timothy Dattels, San Francisco-based senior partner at US buyout firm TPG Capital LP and a director of Kuok's Hong Kong-listed Shangri-La Asia Ltd. "I can't imagine a day without him at the top."

Others can, which is why the question of succession looms over the Kuok empire as the patriarch prepares to mark his 90th birthday in October.

Through the unlisted family-owned holding company, Kerry Group Ltd, which he chairs, Kuok controls listed enterprises with a total market value of about US$40 billion.

As it stands, the family enterprises are seeking to recover from a rocky 2012 that featured some sharp share-price and profit drops.

In his first interview with Western news media in 16 years, Kuok, who has eight children and numerous other relatives sprinkled through his executive ranks, says he won't be worried when that day eventually comes.

"Everything on earth is dynamic," he says in perfectly enunciated English. "I can only give my children a message, not money. If they follow it, we can go another three or four generations."

Relatives run the most important of the Kuok businesses.

Kuok's second son, Khoon Ean, 57, heads Shangri-La Asia, of which the family owns 50 per cent.

A nephew, Khoon Hong, 63, co-founded and chairs Wilmar International, the largest Kuok-controlled company, with a market value of almost US$20 billion, in which the Kuok family controls a 32 per cent stake.

A daughter, Hui Kwong, 35, is executive director of SCMP Group Ltd, publisher of the 109-year-old South China Morning Post, which Kuok took control of in 1993, when he paid Rupert Murdoch's News Corp US$349 million for a 35 per cent stake.

As to who will succeed the master, most investors in Kuok enterprises focus attention on his eldest son, Khoon Chen, 58, who's known as Beau.

Robert declined to confirm that Beau, who is deputy chairman of Kerry Group, will succeed him.

"News hounds like excitement in their stories, whereas leadership of a business group is always a serious matter, and it would be wrong to put in writing any kind of assumption," Kuok wrote in an email following the interview.

Beau, who has worked in his father's businesses since 1978, is chairman of Kerry Properties Ltd. The firm, 55 per cent owned by Kerry Group, develops luxury apartments, shopping malls and offices mostly in China and Hong Kong.

"I know Beau and he has a good team," says Peter Churchouse, founder of Hong Kong-based property investor Portwood Capital Ltd. "But you have to wonder whether the second and third generations have the entrepreneurial and trading instincts that the father has."

The father's instincts were honed over decades of personal and historical turbulence inconceivable to the generation vying to take over the family business.

That experience helped him become one of the first - and best-connected - foreign investors in China following Mao Zedong's communist revolution.

"Robert is the best China watcher in the business," says Simon Murray, chairman of Glencore International Plc, the world's biggest commodities-trading company. "He understands the steel backbone of the Communist Party, but while other Hong Kong tycoons tend to be hugely subservient to Beijing, he is in no way obsequious."

For all of Kuok's prowess, 2012 was a tumultuous year for investors in his enterprises.

While Kerry Properties stock surged 57 per cent in Hong Kong last year - more than double the increase in the Hang Seng Index - Wilmar International's shares plummeted 33 per cent, making it the worst performer in Singapore's Straits Times Index.

The plunge wiped the equivalent of more than US$8 billion from the company's market value - and almost US$3 billion from the family's fortune. This year, Wilmar's share price has rebounded, rising 14 per cent in January.

In any event, Kuok disputes Bloomberg's valuation of his personal wealth at US$19.4 billion; he says it's "a fraction" of that amount, though he does not volunteer an alternative figure.

Wilmar's woes stem from its massive exposure to China, where its cooking oil brands - led by Jin Long Yu, meaning Golden Dragon Fish - grease half the country's woks and where it gets 48 per cent of its revenue.

Beijing limited price increases on edible oils during most of 2011 and part of 2012, Wilmar said at the time.

Furthermore, the rising cost of soyabeans, which Wilmar uses to produce cooking oil, hit a record US$17.89 a bushel in September, squeezing earnings.

In the first nine months of 2012, profit fell 29 per cent to US$779 million from US$1.1 billion a year earlier.

Kuok's Hong Kong-based companies have had a rough ride since the global financial crisis.

As of January 31, Shangri-La Asia and Kerry properties shares were both down 19 per cent compared with a one per cent increase in the Hang Seng Index.

Asked about such underperformance, Kuok says enigmatically, "It is right and proper for the investor to like or dislike a share."

Underperformance isn't the only problem at SCMP Group, whose share price had declined 69 per cent as of January 30 since Kuok acquired it. In 19 years, the South China Morning Post has churned through 11 editors, including one who served twice.

And although Kuok says his news executives publish without fear or favour, present and former staff members have publicly complained that the paper sometimes self-censors stories it thinks the Chinese government wouldn't like.

If that's true, it might be a first for Kuok, whose life story has been one of single-minded achievements.

The son of Chinese immigrants who had settled in British-controlled Malaya, Robert Kuok Hock Nien - his full name - grew up speaking his parents' Chinese Fuzhou dialect, English and even Japanese during Japan's wartime occupation of the region.

Significantly, given the role China would play in Robert's life, his mother encouraged him to achieve fluency in Mandarin and embrace his Chinese heritage.

Kuok's parents ran a shop that sold rice, sugar and flour. Kuok recalls living with the smell of his addicted father's opium pipe in his nostrils.

Still, there was enough money for Robert to progress from a local English school to Raffles College in Singapore, where fellow students included Lee Kuan Yew, later the founder of modern Singapore.

Kuok never finished his studies. In 1941, Japanese troops stormed through the Malay Peninsular and in February 1942 captured Singapore.

Kuok took a job with Mitsubishi Corp. With Japan's defeat in 1945, his family resumed doing business under the British.

In 1949, after his father died, Robert; a brother, Philip; and other relatives founded Kuok Bros Sdn Bhd, which later specialised in sugar refining.

Philip went on to become a Malaysian diplomat, and a second, much-admired brother, William, took an entirely different path again by joining the communist revolt against colonial rule. In 1953, William Kuok was killed by British troops in a jungle ambush.

Robert Kuok, by contrast, used his English-language skills on visits to London to learn the sugar business, while remaining based in Malaysia and later Singapore.

During the Cold War, he traded with both Western and communist blocs, meeting Cuba's Fidel Castro and doing business with China's Mao from as early as 1959.

In 1973, with China in the grip of the Cultural Revolution, Kuok was summoned to Hong Kong for a furtive rendezvous with two of Mao's trade officials.

They confided that China was facing a sugar shortage. Kuok stepped into the breach, transferring his headquarters to Hong Kong that year.

It was a prescient move. In 1976, Mao died, and in 1978, Deng Xiaoping tore down the so-called Bamboo Curtain, initiating reforms that sparked 34 years of surging economic growth.

In 1984, Kuok opened his first Shangri-La on the mainland. The following year, he partnered with China's foreign Trade Ministry to begin building the China World Trade Centre in Beijing.

In 1988, at his nephew Khoon Hong's suggestion, he branched out into edible oils. By 1993, Coca-Cola Co was impressed enough with Kuok's China connections to form a bottling joint venture with him.

That lasted until 2008, when Coke bought back Kerry Group's stake for an undisclosed amount, both companies pronouncing the outcome a success.

The family's history of that period harbours an enduring mystery: a 16-year parting of the ways between Robert and Khoon Hong, who in 1991 left the Kuok Group to set up Wilmar with Indonesian entrepreneur Martua Sitorus.

It wasn't until 2007 that Robert acquired a 32 per cent stake in Wilmar and injected most of his agribusiness into it. Neither Robert nor his nephew would discuss the split.

For all his triumphs in the capitalist world, Robert Kuok says the biggest influences on his life were his devoutly Buddhist mother and his communist revolutionary brother, William.

Kuok says he has tried to pass on those values by not cocooning his children in privilege. Nor, he adds, does he place much emphasis on scholastic qualifications, including MBA degrees, when hiring senior staff.

Among members of the extended family, Kuok speaks highly of Khoon Hong, his nephew at Wilmar.

The perils of succession are acute in Kuok's bailiwick, according to researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Their study of 250 family-controlled businesses in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan from 1987 to 2005 shows that stocks typically plunged 60 per cent over an eight-year period before, during and after a founder's relinquishing control.

Joseph Fan, the finance professor who led the research, attributes this wealth destruction to the inability of the patriarch to pass on, even to family members, his most valuable, intangible assets, including relationships with governments and banks. "The founder is the key asset," Fan says.

That's why, Fan says, so many tycoons remain at the helm of their businesses well into their 80s and don't disclose succession plans.

TPG Capital's Dattels says succession isn't a concern when it comes to the Kuok businesses.

"There's only one Robert Kuok, there's no doubt," he says. "But he has instilled his business philosophy deep into the family. With what he has built, they are |well set to continue, whatever happens."

Back at his Hong Kong headquarters, Kuok asks an assistant to bring him a favourite quotation. Written by his mother in Chinese and engraved on a steel plate, the aphorism reads:

"If my children and grandchildren can be like me, then they don't require material inheritance. But if they are not like me, then of what use is my wealth to them?"

Those words beg the question investors in Kuok's far-flung businesses are asking now more than ever: How like Robert Kuok are his heirs?

With assistance from Shiyin Chen, Haslinda Amin and Netty Ismail in Singapore, Debra Mao in Taipei and Kelvin Wong in Hong Kong

Sources: Business Times Malaysia

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