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 Chinese business magnate and investor. According to Forbes, his net worth is estimated at $11.3 billion on March 2016, making him the richest person in Malaysia and second richest in Southeast Asia after Dhanin Chearavanont of Thailand, according to Forbes List of World Billionaires 2013 which Robert Kuok was placed 76th. As of December 2012, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Kuok has an estimated net worth of $17.3 billion, making him the 40th richest person in the world.
Contrary to popular belief, Robert Kuok does not possess the honorific title of 'Tan Sri'. 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, hotels, properties, trading, freight and publishing. Biggest source of wealth is stake in Wilmar International, the world's largest listed palm oil company. He was a student from Raffles Institution and English College Johore Bahru as a secondary school.
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.
Robert Kuok's brother, Philip Kuok Hock Khee, a Malaysian Ambassador to Germany, Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Denmark was born on 18 May 1921 and attended with Robert Kuok to English College Johore Bahru before going to the College of Agriculture, Serdang and later to the University of Malaya with a degree in Economics.
Another brother, William, was a member of the Malaysian Communist Party and was killed during the 'Malaysian Emergency' in 1952.
Philip married Eileen Kuok and had two sons and two daughters, he died on 16 December 2003 and was awarded with Netherlands award of the Grand Cross of the Order of Orange Nassau, and decorated with Dato' Sri Paduka Mahkota Johor (SPMJ), Dato' Paduka Mahkota Johor (DPMJ) and Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM).
Kuok has married twice and has eight children. Kuok officially retired from the Kerry Group on 1 April 1993. One of his sons, Kuok Khoon Ean, now handles most of the day-to-day operations of his businesses. He currently resides in Hong Kong.
His nephew, Kuok Khoon Hong is the chairman of Wilmar International, and one of the richest people in Singapore.
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 claims he began in business as an office boy, and later started a business with relatives' support. Upon graduation, 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, with suspicion of being a traitor. 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.
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. 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.
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 Malaysia and China governments leading to full diplomatic cross recognition of the two countries.
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.