Robert Kuok

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Robert Kuok Hock Nien
Native name 郭鹤年
Born Kuok Hock Nien
(1923-10-06) 6 October 1923 (age 94)
Johor Bahru, Johor, British Malaya (now Malaysia)
Residence Hong Kong[1]
Other names Sugar King, King of Cooking Oil
Citizenship Malaysia[1]
Occupation Chairman, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts Chain
Net worth US$14.3 billion (August 2018)[1]
Spouse(s) Joyce Cheah (deceased)
Ho Poh Lin, 謝碧蓉


Kuok Khoon Hong (nephew)

Robert Kuok Hock Nien (simplified Chinese: 郭鹤年; traditional Chinese: 郭鶴年; pinyin: Guō Hè Nián; born 6 October 1923), is a Malaysian business magnate and investor. According to Forbes, his net worth is estimated at $14.8 billion in March 2018, making him the wealthiest person in Malaysia[1][2] and sixth richest in Southeast Asia and according to Forbes List of World Billionaires 2018 which Robert Kuok was placed 96th.[3] As of May 2018, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Kuok has an estimated net worth of $19.9 billion, making him the 48th richest person in the world.[4]

Robert Kuok is media-shy; most of his businesses are privately held by him or his family. Apart from a multitude of businesses in Malaysia, his companies have investments in many countries throughout Asia.[5] His business interests range from sugarcane plantations (Perlis Plantations Bhd), sugar refineries, flour milling, animal feed, oil, mining, finance, hotel (Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts), property, trading, freight and publishing.[1] His biggest source of wealth is a stake in Wilmar International, the world's largest listed palm oil trader company.[6]


Kuok is in the sugar business. Kuok's father arrived in Malaya from Fujian, China, at the beginning of the 20th century, and Robert was the youngest of three brothers, born on 6 October 1923, in Johor Bahru. He grew up speaking his parents' Chinese Fuzhou dialect, English and Japanese during Japan's wartime occupation of Malaya. He was a student from Raffles Institution and English College Johore Bahru.

He claims he began in business as an office boy, and later started a business with relatives' support.[5] Upon graduation, being a collaborationist with the Empire of Japan, he worked as a clerk in the rice-trading department of Japanese industrial conglomerate Mitsubishi Shoji Kaisha between the Japanese occupation period between 1942 and 1945, in Singapore, a conglomerate which with the help of Japanese military unit monopolized the rice trade in Malaya during the occupation period. He was soon promoted to head the rice-trading department. After the war, he took the skills he learned from the Japanese back to the family's business in Johor.[7]

Kuok senior died in 1948, and Kuok and his two brothers and a cousin Kuok Hock Chin founded Kuok Brothers Sdn Bhd in 1949, trading agricultural commodities. Kuok relationship with the Japanese continued after Malaya gained independence. In 1959, Kuok formed Malayan Sugar Manufacturing Co. Bhd. together with two prominent Japanese partners. He also brought many influential Malay elite into his company as directors and shareholders which include UMNO politician and Malay royalty.[citation needed] In 1961, he made a coup by buying cheap sugar from India before the prices shot up. He continued to invest heavily in sugar refineries, controlled 80% of the Malaysian sugar market with production of 1.5 million tonnes, equivalent to 10% of world production, and so earned his nickname "Sugar King of Asia".

In 1971, he built the first Shangri-La Hotel, in Singapore. His first foray into Hong Kong property was in 1977, when he acquired a plot of land on the newly reclaimed Tsim Sha Tsui East waterfront, where he built the second hotel, the Kowloon Shangri-La. In 1993, his Kerry Group acquired a 34.9% stake in the South China Morning Post from Murdoch's News Corporation. Kuok officially retired from the Kerry Group on 1 April 1993.

His companies have investments in many countries, including Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Mainland China, Indonesia, Fiji and Australia. Businesses in China include 10 bottling companies for Coca-Cola, and ownership of the Beijing World Trade Centre.[5]

Freight interests include Malaysian Bulk Carriers Berhad and Transmile Group.

His political influence is attested by his having been selected as one of the Hong Kong Affairs Advisors in the run-up to the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong, and his minority stake in CITIC Pacific. He was also instrumental in conveying information and setting up the meetings between Malaysia and China governments leading to full diplomatic cross recognition of the two countries.

In 2007, Kuok combined his plantations, edible oil and grains businesses with Wilmar International, hence making it the world's biggest palm-oil processor.[8]

On 31 October 2009, PPB Group under the flagship of Robert Kuok issued a statement to the Bursa Malaysia that it had decided to dispose of its sugar units along with land used to cultivate sugar cane for RM 1.29 billion to FELDA. The sales resulted in a one-off gain for the company. The sugar unit and sugar cane plantation were the second largest business segment upon its grain and feed which were topping the sales.

In February 2014, Kuok's Singapore-based oil services company PACC Offshore Services Holdings (POSH) started pre-IPO talks with investors to list on the Singapore Stock Exchange to raise $400 million.[9]

Kuok lives in Deep Water Bay on Hong Kong island.

In May 2018, Kuok was appointed to the Council of Eminent Persons along with Tun Daim Zainuddin, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Merican and Jomo Kwame Sundaram.[10]


Robert Kuok's brother, Philip Kuok Hock Khee was a former Malaysian Ambassador to Germany, Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Denmark. Philip married Eileen Kuok and had two sons and two daughters. Another brother, William, was a member of the Malaysian Communist Party and was killed during the Malayan Emergency in 1952.[11][12]

Kuok is married twice and has eight children.[8] Robert Kuok's son, Kuok Khoon Ean born in 1955 married Kuok Cheng Sui and holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nottingham, England. His other son, Kuok Khoon Ho is the chairman of Kuok Brothers, born in 1951 and holds a bachelor's degree from McGill University, Canada. Kuok Hui Kwong, his daughter, is the managing director and chief executive of SCMP Group and chairperson of Shangri-la Asia.[12][13]

One of his sons, Kuok Khoon Ean, handles most of the day-to-day operations of his businesses. He currently resides in Kuala Lumpur.

His nephew, Kuok Khoon Hong is the chairman of Wilmar International, and one of the richest people in Singapore.[14]

His grand-nephew, Kuok Meng Ru, is in the music retail industry, owning Swee Lee music company. [15]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Forbes profile: Robert Kuok". Forbes. Retrieved 13 May 2018. 
  2. ^ "Robert Kuok still Malaysia's richest man". New Straits Times. Archived from the original on 3 January 2015. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "The World Billionaire". Retrieved 13 May 2018. 
  4. ^ "Bloomberg Billionaires Index". Retrieved 13 May 2018. 
  5. ^ a b c Secretive billionaire forsakes retirement, The Standard, 14 September 1993.[dead link]
  6. ^ "Malaysia's Sugar King Kuok has gone global - Business News - The Star Online". Retrieved 5 June 2018. 
  7. ^ Annabelle R. Gambe. Overseas Chinese Entrepreneurship and Capitalist Development in Southeast Asia, p 94. Lit Verlag Munster, 1999.
  8. ^ a b "Bloomberg Billionaires Index - Robert Kuok". Retrieved 2017-09-01. 
  9. ^ "Kuok-owned offshore firm in talks for $400m Singapore IPO". Oil Patch Asia. Archived from the original on 5 March 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2014. 
  10. ^ hermesauto (12 May 2018). "Who's who in Mahathir's new Cabinet and Council of Elders". Retrieved 5 June 2018. 
  11. ^ Laut, Stulang (2012-01-04). "The world's shrewdest businessman – Founder of Shangri-La Mr. Kuok | Kita We 我們". Retrieved 2016-02-25. 
  12. ^ a b "Asian magnate Robert Kuok, 89, will let others worry about succession". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-09-01. 
  13. ^ "BRIEF-Shangri-La Asia says Kuok hui kwong will assume position of chairman of board". Reuters. 2016-09-26. Retrieved 2017-09-01. 
  14. ^ Chanyaporn Chanjaroen; William Mellor (February 1, 2013). "Billionaire Kuok Says His Empire Can Last 'Generations'". Bloomberg. 
  15. ^ "Kuok Meng Ru and His Sweet New Version of Swee Lee". Prestige Online - Society’s Luxury Authority. Retrieved 2017-12-10.