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Hartalega CEO doubles personal wealth in pandemic, chasing mega-rich

Biggest winners in personal fortunes in the pandemic are billionaire bosses of worldwide tech giants.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Demand for gloves from US hospitals alone has risen multiple times since the period before the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: AP
Demand for gloves from US hospitals alone has risen multiple times since the period before the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: AP

Personal fortunes of the mega-rich are on a roller coaster in the pandemic. Billions are lost one moment and recouped the next in mind-boggling numbers.

Most billionaires winning out overall in the pandemic are bosses of worldwide tech giants.

At the start of the pandemic, global markets tumbled. Jeff Bezos, the boss of Amazon, lost US$27 billion of his personal wealth. Yet as the company’s share price rebounded, so did Bezos’ fortune, which now stands at over US$200 billion. On one day, July 6, he made US$10 billion.

Other tech billionaires are also doing well after a rocky start. Between March and the end of June, the net worth of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, soared by more than 50%. In August, after a surge in Facebook shares, he became a centibillionaire, that is someone who is worth at least US$100 billion. His personal fortune is surpassed only by Bezos and Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

But one of the non-tech billionaires winning in the pandemic is boss of a home-grown Malaysian company.

Kuan Kam Hon.

Kuan Kam Hon, CEO of Hartalega, the Malaysian synthetic glove maker, has doubled his personal wealth in the pandemic. He is now worth an estimated US$7.6 billion.

At the start of the pandemic, Hartalega was already doing well producing nearly 40 billion gloves a year, exported to 70 countries. Although that was full capacity then, additional production lines enabled production to rise by around 10%.

A Hartalega representative told CNBC that demand is still very high, with demand for gloves from US hospitals alone having risen multiple times since the period before the coronavirus pandemic.

Most wealthy people have not been so lucky. According to the latest Global Wealth Report by the bank Credit Suisse, most early losses have been recouped but assets are likely to grow more slowly “for the next couple of years, and likely longer”.

Billionaires in countries that controlled the pandemic quickly did better than their mega-rich fellows in countries which failed to do so.

In Britain, where more than 44,000 people have died, making it one of the hardest-hit rich countries, billionaires lost about a quarter of their wealth between February and June.

In Italy, which has also struggled to contain the virus, the ultra-rich lost nearly 30% of their wealth.

In South Korea, where less than 500 people have died, the nine billionaires in Forbes’s index grew roughly 10% richer.

In China, where the virus first emerged but was also brought quickly under control, the net worth of the richest billionaires rose by up to 5%.

According to the Forbes list of Malaysia’s richest, the country has 15 homegrown billionaires.

Robert Kuok is the richest Malaysian. He owns Kuok group, which has interests in hotels, real estate and commodities.

As of today, October 26, the Hong Kong-based Malaysian tycoon is worth US$11 billion, that’s a small dip of 0.1% from Friday.

That makes him #141 richest in the world.