A NON-CHINESE has for the first time been named Malaysia's richest man. Ethnic Indian Ananda Krishnan has topped the latest rich list with estimated wealth of around RM8.8 billion (S$4 billion).
Second on the 2003 list of the country's 40 richest people, compiled by Malaysian Business magazine, is 'sugar king' Robert Kuok Hock Nien with RM8 billion, followed by industrialist Quek Leng Chan with RM6.6 billion, and Genting casino magnate Lim Goh Tong with RM5.2 billion.
Mr Kuok topped last year's list, while Mr Lim was second, followed by Mr Ananda and Mr Quek.
The reclusive Mr Ananda's flagship Usaha Tegas controls leading mobile phone company Maxis Communications and has interests in power generation, cable television, satellites, gaming, horse racing and even cinemas.
'Ananda, who was placed third in 2002 with RM4.2 billion, saw a huge jump in his net worth, thanks to his listing of Maxis Communications last year,' Malaysian Business said in its Feb 16 issue.
But the magazine said: 'Kuok, whose wealth was placed at RM8.8 billion last year, cannot be written off as a strong contender for the top spot next year. He is said to be beefing up his Malaysian operations, which might include listing his shipping assets on the local bourse.'
Mr Quek, of the diversified Hong Leong group, increased his wealth by 50 per cent to RM6.6 billion, following the sale of the group's Dao Heng Bank in Hong Kong to Singapore's DBS Group last year.
This puts him ahead of Genting's Mr Lim, who saw his wealth drop as his stake in his family company Kien Huat Realty was reduced following his semi-retirement.
A newcomer to the top 10 club is Mr Lim's second son, Lim Koh Thay, with estimated wealth of RM1.4 billion.
Malay tycoons in the top 10 are Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, the prime mover of Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Johor, and property developer Mustapha Kamal of MK Group.
Malaysian Business said the total wealth of the country's 40 richest people increased 20 per cent from a year earlier to RM50 billion - or almost a quarter of Malaysia's gross domestic product - despite subdued market sentiment.