I built MISC from scratch only to be told to sell by Tun Razak, says Kuok
In the book, Mr Kuok criticised implicitly the policy of preferential treatment for Bumiputeras in Malaysia, and said he made one “strong attempt to influence the course of history” of the country but failed
The way your people are going – excessive handicapping… showering love on your first son – your first born is going to grow up with an attitude of entitlement – Robert Kuok
Mr Kuok’s plea to prime minister Hussein Onn in 1975, to dismantle Malaysia’s affirmative action policy
MALAYSIAN tycoon Robert Kuok said he built Malaysia’s first national shipping line, the Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC), out of a sense of patriotism, but later relegated himself to be a minority shareholder at the repeated request of former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.
In an extract of Kuok’s autobiography, Robert Kuok, A Memoir” published on the South China Morning Post today, the man dubbed the “Sugar King” tells of how he was driven to launch the country’s national shipping line after he learnt that the largest British shipping conglomerate Blue Funnel Group was coming to set up in post-independent Malaysia.
“My interest was partly patriotism – a desire to help Malaysia to launch its own independent shipping line and not be tied to the apron strings of the ex-colonial government of Britain through Blue Funnel,” he said.
The MISC quickly grew successful under the management of his company, Kuok Brothers and his Hong Kong partner, International Maritime Carriers chairman Frank WK Tsao.
Kuok said MISC had a paid-up capital of RM10 million, with the Kuok Brothers leading the show with 20%, and Tsao, 15% of their share. MCA and several Chinese organisations held 20% to 30% of shares.
Then a year into their operations, Kuok said he received a call from then-prime minister Abdul Razak Hussein, who wanted Kuok to give up a percentage of the company’s shares for Malay ownership.
“Within a year of our launching MISC, Tun Razak, who by then was prime minister, sent for me,” said Kuok in his book.
“Razak said, ‘I want you to make a fresh issue of 20% of new shares. I’m under pressure because there is not a high enough Malay percentage of shareholding.’
“I said, ‘Tun, are you quite serious about this request?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Robert.’ So I replied that I would do it.
“I went back and, with a little bit of arm-twisting, persuaded the board to pass a resolution waiving the rights of existing shareholders to a rights issue (MISC was not yet a public company).
“Razak allocated all the new shares to government agencies. So, I was diluted to 20 upon 120 – the enlarged base – and Frank became 15 upon 120,” Kuok said.
A year or two later, Kuok said Razak went to him again to squeeze for more share issuance, saying he was “under a lot of pressure at cabinet meetings”.
Kuok said Razak told him: “You know, Robert, it’s just the price of your success. MISC is doing well, people are getting envious.”
Razak then told him to issue another 20%, to give 5% each to the four port cities in Malaysia.
“This entailed enlarging the capital base to 140 from the original 100, making the Malaysian Government the largest single shareholder and relegating Kuok Brothers to second position. And he again wanted the shares issued at par – the original issue price,” Kuok said.
“Tun, I have always cooperated with you, but it’s getting very difficult. Three, four years have elapsed from formation, but I would be loath to ask you for a premium since we are a growing company. So I will go back and ask the board again to issue shares at par to you. But Tun, can you please promise me that this is the last time?” – Robert Kuok Memoirs, quoted from South China Morning Post
Kuok said he agreed to issue the shares at par, but asked Razak to “promise” that it would be the last time.
“He smiled and very gently signified his agreement, without saying the words,” Kuok wrote.
Malaysian train on wrong track, says tycoon Kuok in memoir
In the 376-page “Robert Kuok, A Memoir”, the 54th richest man in the world, according to Bloomberg, said he had known all of Malaysia’s six prime ministers and shared how he saw Malaysia’s trajectory as far back as 1969.
TENKU – CHIEF TRUSTEE OF A NATION
Mr Kuok, who is also ranked Malaysia’s richest man, said Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman was a well-educated law graduate with “tremendous rhythm”.
“If you talk of brains, Tunku was brilliant, and very shrewd. His mother was Thai, and he had that touch of Thai shrewdness, an ability to smell and spot whether a man was to be trusted or not.
“Tunku was less mindful about administrative affairs. But he had a good number two in Tun (Abdul) Razak (Hussein), who was extremely industrious, and Tunku left most of the paperwork to Razak.”
The 94-year-old said Tunku had many friends but he would not adopt cronies.
“His friends sometimes helped him, or they sent him a case of champagne or slabs of specially imported steak. He loved to grill steaks on his lawn and open champagne, wine or spirits. Tunku would also do favours for his friends, but he never adopted cronies.
“When Tan Siew Sin was finance minister, Tunku sent him a letter about a Penang businessman who was one of Tunku’s poker-playing buddies. It seems the man had run into tax trouble and was being investigated by the tax department, and he had turned to Tunku for help.
“In his letter, Tunku wrote, ‘You know so-and-so is my friend. I am not asking any favours of you, Siew Sin, but I am sure you can see your way to forgiving him,’ or something to that effect.”
But Mr Kuok said Mr Tan was upset and marched into Dr Ismail (Abdul Rahman)’s office to complain.
“Ismail took the letter, crumpled it into a ball and threw it into the waste-paper basket. He then said, ‘Siew Sin, Tunku has done his duty by his friend. Now, by ignoring Tunku, you will continue to do your duty properly’,” Mr Kuok said.
“That was as far as Tunku would go to help a friend. Cronyism is different. Cronies are lapdogs who polish a leader’s ego. In return, the leader hands out national favours to them.
“A nation’s assets, projects and businesses should never be for anyone to hand out, neither for a king nor a prime minister. A true leader is the chief trustee of a nation. If there is a lack of an established system to guide him, his fiduciary sense should set him on the proper course.”
Mr Kuok said a leader who practised cronyism justified his actions by doing everything necessary to achieve his ends.
A DIFFERENT MAN AFTER 1969
Mr Kuok said Tunku was a different man after the May 13 race riots.
Tunku felt he had helped the country gain independence and had ruled as wisely as he could, yet, the Malays turned on him for purportedly selling out to the Chinese, said Mr Kuok.
“In fairness to Tunku, he had done nothing of the sort. He was a very fair man who loved the nation and its people. But he knew that, if you favour one group, you only spoil them. When the British ruled Malaya, they extended certain advantages to the Malays.
“When the Malays took power following independence on August 31, 1957, more incentives were given to them. But there was certainly no showering of favours.”
Mr Kuok said everything changed after 1969 due to extremist Malays attributing their poverty to plundering Chinese and Indians.
“The more thoughtful leaders were shunted aside and the extremists hijacked power. They chanted the same slogans as the hotheads – the Malays are underprivileged; the Malays are bullied – while themselves seeking to become super-rich.
“When these Malays became rich, not many of them did anything for the poor Malays; the Chinese and Indians who became rich created jobs, many of them filled by Malays.”
Mr Kuok said prior to 1969 the government would open tenders and if a company worked hard, it would succeed “eight or nine times out of 10”.
“But things were changing, veering more and more towards cronyism and favouritism.”
Mr Kuok said Malay leaders were quite reasonable in running the country and gave Malays an advantage at times.
“Then, when they see that they have overdone it, they try to redress the problem. Their hearts are in the right place, but they just cannot see their way out of their problems. Since May 13, 1969, the Malay leadership has had one simple philosophy: the Malays need handicapping. Now, what amount of handicapping?”
CLOSING THE GAP BUT OPENING NEW WOUNDS
Mr Kuok said Malaysia’s zeal to narrow the wealth gap between the races caused even more racism.
“As a Chinese who was born and grew up in Malaysia, and went to school with the Malays, I was saddened to see the Malays being misled in this way. I felt that, in their haste to bridge the economic gap between the Chinese and the Malays, harmful shortcuts were being taken. One of the side effects of their zeal to bridge the economic gap was that racism became increasingly ugly.
“I saw very clearly that the path being pursued by the new leaders after 1969 was dangerous. But hardly anyone was willing to listen to me.”
HUSSIEN ONN AND THE THREE SONS
Mr Kuok said his father and Hussein Onn’s father, Onn Jaafar had known each other since the 1930s. Mr Kuok and Mr Hussein were even classmates at one time.
And he told the third prime minister to use the best Malaysians for the job regardless of race, colour and creed before he took over
“You’re going to be the leader of a nation, and you have three sons, Hussein. The firstborn is Malay, the second-born is Chinese, the third-born is Indian. What we have been witnessing is that the firstborn is more favoured than the second or third. Hussein, if you do that in a family, your eldest son will grow up very spoiled.
“As soon as he attains manhood, he will be in the nightclubs every night. The second and third sons, feeling the discrimination, will grow up hard as nails.
“Please, Hussein, use the best brains, the people with their hearts in the right place, Malaysians of total integrity and strong ability, hard-working and persevering people. Use them regardless of race, colour or creed.
“The other way, Hussein, the way your people are going – excessive handicapping of Bumiputeras, showering love on your first son – your firstborn is going to grow up with an attitude of entitlement.”
Mr Kuok said Mr Hussein was quiet for a while and after that he said: “No, Robert. I cannot do it. The Malays are now in a state of mind such that they will not accept it.”
He clearly spelt out to me that, it was going to be Malay rule, said Mr Kuok.
“I felt disappointed, but there was nothing more that I could do. Hussein was an honest man of very high integrity. Before going to see him, I had weighed his strength of character, his shrewdness and skill. We had been in the same class, sharing the same teachers.
“I knew Hussein was going to be the Malaysian prime minister whom I was closest to in my lifetime. I think Hussein understood my message, but he knew that the process had gone too far.
“I had seen a picture developing all along of a train moving in the wrong direction. During Hussein’s administration, he was only partially successful in stemming the tide. The train of the nation had been put on the wrong track. Hussein wasn’t strong enough to lift up the train and set it down on the right track.”
Hidden story of Robert Kuok – Malaysian Cronies get rich by the 10s of billions, but Malaysia losses 200 billion in Investment
“The greedy gomen forced him to sell his business”
A relatively recent theory suggests that he left in 2009 after losing the “Sugar King” title in Malaysia. In this story, the gomen under Najib pressured Mr.Kuok to sell his sugar business over to FELDA. The story ends with Robert Kuok getting revenge by stopping a palm oil trade deal between Najib and China. That’ll teach the greedy gomen to mess with a billionaire!
The government offended Robert Kuok, as a result, the Malaysian economy suffered great blow! After the official Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Malaysia, the Najib government now really understands Robert Kuok’s influence on China!
In order to benefit their cronies, they arm twist to swallow Robert Kuok’s sugar empire. The cronies get richer by 10s of billions, but it caused a national loss of more than 200 billion! Those who has insider info can only curse: PKHKC it!
Malaysia sugar king left forced to leave Malaysia, but became the world’s sugar king! He bought the world’s largest sugar mills in Australia, invested USD10 billion, It is the world’s largest sugar cane sugar refining industry, living up to the name of the world’s sugar king.
On the other hand, the Malaysia government benefited cronies at the expense of national interests. For those who know the insiders info, Kuok offered much help to the Malaysian government in the past few decades, he had done everything possible; but what the government did was like what you will get when you turn over a pig stomach: feces. In other words, Najib Government is UNGRATEFUL!
In the “Confidential” news, is about the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Malaysia recently, it hit a snag with Najib.
Prior to Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Malaysia, Najib and his cabinet on more than one occasion, hinted that he hoped China will double the amount of palm oil with Malaysia.
We all know that China is the largest consumer of palm oil from Malaysia. Rapid economic rise in the recent years, China became the largest palm oil market for Malaysia, but Malaysia is also strong competition from Indonesia, trying to sell palm oil at lower prices to China and India, diluting Malaysian market share. This is most worrying got Najib.
Najib hoped to sign a new palm oil trading contracts with Premier Wen Jiabao to sign in order to more than double the average 10 million tonnes monthly exports to China. But Wen Jiabao came to a Malaysia, told Najib, it is impossible. It was an utter disappointment.
Najib knows the Chinese market demand. Even to import one million tonnes of palm oil monthly, is not a problem. So, where is the problem?
The problem lies: Sugar Kuok does not agree!
Why Sugar King Kuak was able to influence China’s decision to buy Malaysian palm oil?
Who is the monopoly of Chinese national oil market? China national oil market leader is “Arowana oil” cooking oil, accounting for nearly 40%! The Arowana oil cooking oil boss, is Robert Kuok!
Think about it, Premier Wen Jiabao on behalf of the Chinese government to buy Malaysian palm oil. Who is to refine it into cooking oil? Of course, it is the privatized enterprises! With 40% market share, if Arowana oil cooking oil company refuse the supply, how the Chinese government going to utilize the supply?
Najib was insensibly from the outset, and did not know Kuok has such big influence with China. He had helped cronies, forced Robert Kuok to give up the Malaysian sugar king throne, and didn’t expect to have such quick retribution
Kuok was forced to leave Malaysia, the heart is of course very unhappy. People of Malaysia must know, during the early days of Malaysia, we do not have aviation professionals, the BN government requested Kuok’s father to help set up Malayan Airways.
1970 Malaysian maritime shipping industry is also a vacuum, the Malaysian government sent representatives to Hong Kong to personally invite Kuok’s help. Kuok for national development, he put aside the Group’s business, came back to Malaysia to assist the Government to establish a national maritime shipping industry, this has the later MALAYSIA INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING COPERATION, referred to as MISC.
Robert Kuok was a big help when Malaysia was repeatedly faced economic difficulties. Even MCA Tan Koon Swan’s case, it was Robert Kuok who paid the bail! Malaysia successive governments, from BN to the National Front, owed Robert Kuok hell lot. But the Malaysian Government was ungrateful, using the hard arm twisting excuse to forcefully take over Kuok’s empire. This is not ungrateful?
Deng Xiaoping made a comeback in the 70s, announced China’s reform and needed most generous help of overseas Chinese entrepreneurs; Robert was first to take actions to help Deng. Among the entrepreneurs of Chinese economic miracle are Henry Fok and Li Ka-shing Hong Kong. Malaysian entrepreneur Robert Kuok is the first to response of Deng Xiaoping in Beijing and built China’s first five-star hotels: Shangri-La!
Chinese are the unsung heroes of South East Asia: Robert Kuok Memoirs
Good Chinese business management is second to none; the very best of Chinese management is without compare. I haven’t seen others come near to it in my 70year career. Robert Kuok
The overseas Chinese were the unsung heroes of the region, having helped to build South East Asia to what it is today, said Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok (pic).
He said that it was the Chinese immigrants who tackled difficult task such as planting and tapping rubber, opening up tin mines, and ran small retail shops which eventually created a new economy around them.
“It was the Chinese who helped build up Southeast Asia. The Indians also played a big role, but the Chinese were the dominant force in helping to build the economy
“They came very hungry and eager as immigrants, often barefooted and wearing only singlets and trousers. They would do any work available, as an honest income meant they could have food and shelter.
“I will concede that if they are totally penniless, they will do almost anything to get their first seed capital. But once they have some capital, they try very hard to rise above their past and advance their reputations as totally moral, ethical businessmen,” Kuok said based on excerpts of his memoir reported in the South China Morning Post .
“Robert Kuok, A Memoir’ is set to be released in Malaysia on Dec 1.
Kuok said the Chinese immigrants were willing to work harder than anyone else and were willing to “eat bitterness”, hence, were the most amazing economic ants on earth
In the extracted memoir published by the South China Morning Post, Kuok, pointed out that if there were any businesses to be done on earth, one can be sure that a Chinese will be there.
“They will know whom to see, what to order, how best to save, how to make money. They don’t need expensive equipment or the trappings of office; they just deliver.
“I can tell you that Chinese businessmen compare notes every waking moment of their lives. There are no true weekends or holidays for them. That’s how they work. Every moment, they are listening, and they have skilfully developed in their own minds – each and every one of them – mental sieves to filter out rubbish and let through valuable information.
“Good Chinese business management is second to none; the very best of Chinese management is without compare. I haven’t seen others come near to it in my 70-year career,” he said.
“They flourish without the national, political and financial sponsorship or backing of their host countries. In Southeast Asia, the Chinese are often maltreated and looked down upon. Whether you go to Malaysia, Sumatra or Java, the locals call you Cina – pronounced Chee-na – in a derogatory way,” he said.
He added that the Chinese had no “fairy godmothers” financial backers.
“Yet, despite facing these odds, the overseas Chinese, through hard work, endeavour and business shrewdness, are able to produce profits of a type that no other ethnic group operating in the same environment could produce,” he said.
Kuok ultimately attributed the Chinese survivability in Southeast Asia to its cultural strength.
“They knew what was right and what was wrong. Even the most uneducated Chinese, through family education, upbringing and social environment, understands the ingredients and consequences of behaviour such as refinement, humility, understatement, coarseness, bragging and arrogance,” he said.