Robert Kuok Hock Nien (; born 6 October 1923), is a Malaysian business magnate and investor of Chinese
descent. According to ''Forbes
'', his net worth is estimated at $12.6 billion as of April 2021, making him the wealthiest person in Malaysia and 104th wealthiest in the world. As of April 2019, according to the ''Bloomberg Billionaires Index
'', Kuok has an estimated net worth of $18.4 billion, making him the 53rd richest person in the world.
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.
[ 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.] His biggest source of wealth is a stake in Wilmar International, the world's largest listed palm oil trader company.
Kuok was born on 6 October 1923,
in Johor Bahru to a Malaysian Chinese family. Kuok's father Kuok Keng Kang arrived in Malaya from Fujian, China, at the beginning of the 20th century, and Robert was the youngest of three brothers born to Kuok Keng Kang and Robert's mother Zheng Ge Ru. He grew up speaking his parents' Fuzhou dialect, English and Japanese during Japan's wartime occupation of Malaya. He studied at Raffles Institution (where he was classmates with Lee Kuan Yew) and English College Johore Bahru.
According to Kuok himself, he began in business as an office boy, and later started a business with relatives' support. Upon graduation, he became a collaborator and worked as a clerk in the rice-trading department of Japanese industrial conglomerate Mitsubishi Shoji Kaisha during the Japanese occupation period between 1942 and 1945, in Singapore, a conglomerate that 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 occupying force to the family's business in Johor.
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's 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 elites into his company as directors and shareholders, including politicians and royalty. In 1961, he bought cheap sugar from India before the prices shot up,and continued to invest heavily in sugar refineries, at one time controlling 80% of the Malaysian sugar market with production of 1.5 million tonnes, equivalent to 10% of world production, earning himself the 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 his 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.
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 Malaysian and Chinese 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, making it the world's biggest palm-oil processor.
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.
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.
Kuok lives in Deep Water Bay on Hong Kong island.
In March 2018, Kuok published a book about his life entitled, ''Robert Kuok: A Memoir.'' It won Best Book of the Year at the Singapore Book Publishers Association awards 2018.
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.
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. Philip Kuok died in 2003. Another brother, William Kuok Hock Ling, was a member of the Malayan Communist Party and was killed during the Malayan Emergency in 1952.
According to his memoir, Kuok described that of all the brothers, his mother Zheng Ge Ru doted on and adored William the most, and was heartbroken when she received news of William's death.
Kuok is married twice and has eight children. 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.
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. Kuok Khoon Hong's father, Kuok Hock Swee, was an older cousin of Robert Kuok.
His grand-nephew, Kuok Meng Ru, is in the music retail industry, owning Swee Lee music company.
He is a follower of Buddhism.
Category:Hong Kong Affairs Advisors
Category:Malaysian chairpersons of corporations
Category:Malaysian chief executives
Category:Malaysian company founders
Category:Malaysian people of Chinese descent
Category:Members of the Preparatory Committee for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Category:Palm oil production in Malaysia
Category:Raffles Institution alumni