Sat, 04 Jun 1994

'Forbes' latest list of richest tycoons sparks debate

JAKARTA (JP): The Forbes Zibenjia business magazine's latest list of the richest businessmen in East Asia has stirred debate among several financial analysts as to who is really the richest tycoon in Indonesia.

The list of the ten top richest Chinese businessmen which was quoted by several newspapers here from Reuters early this week included three Indonesian businessmen-- Soedono Salim, Prajogo Pangestu and Eka Tjipta Widjaja.

The list remained topped by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing who controls the Cheung Kong and Hutchison Whampoa groups. Li, with a personal fortune of US$7 billion, was followed by Walter Kwok Ping-sheung and his brothers who control the Sun Hung Kai Properties.

The Chinese edition of Forbes magazine put Indonesia's Soedono Salim in fourth with personal assets of $6 billion, Eka Tjipta Widjaja in seventh with $5 billion and Prajogo on the bottom of the list with $4.5 billion.

The other businessmen on the list were Tsai Wan-lin from Taiwan with a personal worth of $6.3 billion, Robert Kuwok from Malaysia with $6 billion, Lee Shau-kee from Hong Kong with $5.9 billion, Lim Goh-tong from Malaysia with $5 billion and Wu Dung- chin from Taiwan with $4.8 billion.


However, some financial analysts here debated the accuracy of the ranking of the three Indonesian Chinese businessmen, arguing that Prajogo might have now become at least the second richest, if not the richest, businessman in Indonesia.

They nonetheless conceded that even though an increasing number of big conglomerates have gone public, thereby subject to financial disclosure, it was still difficult to accurately estimate the personal wealth of the country's largest businessmen, most of whom are Chinese-Indonesians, because they hold stakes in a wide range of businesses.

The fortunes of Chinese-Indonesians have often become a "juicy" topic of coverage for local print media but most of the figures they brought up remained largely rough estimates.

The Eksekutif business magazine reported last February that Prajogo had catapulted to be Indonesia's richest businessman with estimated assets of Rp 10 trillion ($4.6 billion), or around Rp 3 trillion richer than Soedono Salim.

But Tempo, Indonesia's largest newsweekly magazine, in January put Prajogo's personal worth at Rp 15 trillion ($7 billion).

An analyst of a securities company here reckoned the Tempo estimate was perhaps the closest to the real size of Prajogo's fortune.

The analyst cited Prajogo's personal assets in nine groups of businesses to support his argument.

He said Prajogo owns 70 percent of the 700 million shares of the publicly listed Barito Pacific Timber most recently quoted at Rp 9,050. He holds 10.1 percent of Astra International's 242 million shares, now trading at around Rp 14,300.

In addition, he also owns 12 percent of PT Tripolyta and holds large stakes in paper and pulp, oil palm, rubber and pepper plantations, properties, timber estates and several banks.

Prajogo's other major assets are his 45 percent equity stake in a $1.7 billion petrochemical plant project in West Java which is still under construction. (vin)