Don't mess with the Sugar King
The following is a translation of the 忠政快讯 commentary on how Najib stole Robert Kuok's sugar business so that greedy UMNO cronies could enjoy the profits, and how Malaysia's economy suffered as a result.
Recently, the govt offended Robert Kuok. As a result, the Malaysian economy suffered a great blow. And now, after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Malaysia, Najib's administration truly understands Robert Kuok's influence in China.
Crony got richer, Malaysia got poorer
UMNO cronies are loyal when there's easy money for the taking. To keep them happy, Najib twisted Robert Kuok's arm to get the profits from his sugar empire. As a result, UMNO cronies got richer by tens of billions of ringgit. But it caused a national loss of more than 200 billion for Malaysia as a whole!
(Those who have insider knowledge on this are still cursing until God knows when.)
So, the Malaysian sugar king was forced to leave his own country, but ironically, he has now become the world's sugar emperor. How? He bought the world's largest sugar mills in Australia, investing a cool 10 billion US dollars.
So, Najib's government benefited a few UMNO families at the expense of national interests. Very ungrateful, when it is a known fact that Robert Kuok had given a lot of help to the Malaysian Govt for several decades. A Chinese idiomatic expression calls this 'turning a pig's intestine inside out' because on the other side is a lot of shit.
Palm oil slap in the face
In the global political gossip columns, insiders are smiling because Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Malaysia hit a snag with Najib. How? You see, before this visit, Najib and his cabinet had hinted several times that they hoped China would double the amount of palm oil imports from Malaysia.
China is the largest buyer of Malaysian palm oil. But there is strong competition with Indonesia, which is trying to sell palm oil at lower prices to China and India. Najib is very worried about this. So during the official visit, he hoped to seal a new palm oil trading contract with China, to double the average of 10 million tonnes sold by Malaysia every month.
But Wen Jiabao said that this was impossible. Najib was very disappointed. He knew the Chinese market demand; even for China to import 1,000,000 tonnes per day is not a problem. So where was the problem?
The problem was that Robert Kuok did not agree!
How was Robert Kuok able to influence China's decision? Who owns the monopoly of China's national oil market? The market leader is Arowana cooking oil, accounting for nearly 40% of the market. And the Arowana cooking oil boss is, Robert Kuok!
Think about it. If Premier Wen Jiabao had agreed to buy more Malaysian palm oil, who is going to refine it into cooking oil? Privatised enterprises, of course! With 40% market share, if the Arowana cooking oil company refuses the additional supply, how is the Chinese government going to utilise the extra crude palm oil?
Najib, insensible from the start, did not know that Kuok was so influential in China. By helping UMNO cronies get rich, he jeopardized the prosperity of Malaysia and its ordinary people.
Ask what Kuok has done for his country
After losing his throne, the Sugar King left Malaysia, understandably disappointed and unhappy. Many people still remember that, in the early days of Malaysia, we did not have aviation professionals, and the BN govt asked Kuok's father to help set up Malayan Airways.
In the 1970s, our maritime industry was also a vacuum, and Malaysian govt sent representatives to Hong Kong to request Kuok's help. For the sake of national development, Kuok put aside the Group's business and returned to Malaysia to help establish a national shipping industry. This later became MISC, the Malaysia International Shipping Corp.
When Malaysia repeatedly faced economy difficulties, Robert Kuok was a big help. He even posted bail for MCA's Tan Koon Swan's CBT case. The govt owes Robert Kuok a great deal, but it used strong-arm tactics to forcefully take over Kuok's sugar empire in Malaysia. Truly ungrateful.
Kuok's relationship with China
When Deng Xiaoping announced China's reforms, he needed aid from generous overseas Chinese entrepreneurs. Robert Kuok promptly joined other helping hands in the Chinese economic miracle such as Hong Kong's Henry Fok and Li Ka-shing. Kuok was the first to respond to Deng Xiaoping in Beijing and built China's first five-star hotel (Shangri-La).
Kuok has over 30 years of friendship with China's leadership. Najib failed to recognise this when he ate Kuok's sugar empire in Malaysia, partly to benefit the business connections of his greedy fat 'vampire' wife's family. Imagine doing this to an international tycoon – what humiliation in return for patriotic help in the past, from his own country?
Early this year, Kuok announced plans to invest US$10 billion in Indonesia to develop refineries in the world's largest sugarcane growing areas. The global economy was facing a downturn. The Malaysian govt traveled the world to solicit investments. How much was Malaysia’s foreign investment? Kuok’s single investment in Indonesia was equivalent to US$10 billion! Of course, when the news hit the papers, he was criticized for being 'unpatriotic', preferring to take so much money to Indonesia instead of Malaysia. Can you smell the bullshit?
For the moment, Malaysia's palm oil trade with China will remain on agreed terms (no increase). Indonesia has more palm oil than Malaysia – cheaper too. Now that Kuok has invested so much money in Indonesia, its govt treats him like a god of wealth. Certainly open to negotiations on anything. Moreover, Indonesia has been eyeing the opportunity to take over the palm oil supply contract from Malaysia.
At least give the beggars something – frozen durian
Buying frozen durian was the consolation China gave instead of buying more Malaysian palm oil.
Business needs more than cow sense. Who ever supplies millions of ringgit in frozen durian to a brand-new market with small durian consumption? How much time and effort is needed to market frozen durian from Malaysia? Thai durian does not sell well in China, let alone frozen durian from Malaysia. If the market is proven non-receptive to frozen durian, how do we deal with return goods? A total loss with capital. Is this how to do business?
Kuok is not just China's top hotelier, king of cooking oil, and the world’s sugar emperor. He is also the patent owner of the Coca-Cola soft drink brand in the Chinese market. He is also involved in a diverse range of businesses in China, and has created millions of jobs there. The Beijing central leadership has great respect for him as a savvy and powerful entrepreneur. When the man speaks, the weight of his words can be far-reaching.
And yet, Robert Kuok is one of the few outstanding Malaysians who has never accepted any of the high-faluting titles which are churned out every year for 'distinguished' VIPs. Many people address him as Tan Sri or Datuk Robert Kuok when in fact, he does not have such titles and needs none.