Sun, 05 Nov 2000

Book Nook: Asia's New Wealth Club

Asia's New Wealth Club;By Geoff Hiscock; Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2000; 348 pp; US$19.95

JAKARTA (JP): Who is the richest person in Indonesia? It is Rachman Halim, and you will need only a split second to know the answer after flipping through this book.

It may come as a surprise to many that it is not former president Soeharto, with an estimated wealth of US$2 billion.

Halim and the Wonowidjojo family, who own the huge Gudang Garam kretek (clove-flavored) cigarette company, edged out Soeharto with their $2.2 billion wealth.

Richness is a tempting attribute to many and Geoff Hiscock, the international business editor of The Australian , banks on the deep human curiosity we share to find out how much others are worth.

He monitors the wealth of 100 Asian billionaires in the year 2000 whose total assets are no less than $300 billion. The book is an update of his Asia's Wealth Club published three years ago.

He also tells that Soeharto, listed 55th among the 100 billionaires, was ranked ninth in 1997. Halim was down to 42nd in 2000 from seventh three years ago.

The number one slot in Asia was held by Masayoshi Son, a Korean Japanese who founded Softbank Corporation. His fortune totals $18 billion.

The last slot was secured by Indonesia's Putera Sampoerna and family, also owner of a major kretek cigarette business, with $1 billion.

The kretek business is a big business in Indonesia, so it seems. This is the kind of picture Hiscock wishes to create in the readers' mind through a big brush stroke of the business map in a given country. He succeeds overwhelmingly in this aim.

He also provides fascinating insight into the lives of 15 billionaires in different countries and how they dealt with the Asian financial crisis.

Hiscock draws on his extensive experience as a business journalist in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok for the book.

If they wish, readers could continue their own search about Indonesia as Hiscock lists six billionaires in the country. Apart from Halim and Soeharto, there are Liem Sioe Liong, Eka Tjipta Widjaya, Mochtar Riady and Putera Sampoerna in that order. (hbk)