Malaysia's property tycoons make a fortune with affordable houses, overseas expansion, says Forbes

KUALA LUMPUR: The combined wealth of Malaysia's 50 wealthiest individuals has experienced a modest 2.0 per cent uptick, now totaling US$83.4 billion for the year. Notably, this year's list includes a number of property tycoons who have amassed fortunes through affordable housing sales and international ventures.

Among them, brothers Lee Yeow Chor and Yeow Seng of the IOI Group have made their debut in the top five wealthiest Malaysians, boasting a combined net worth of US$5.35 billion, as per Forbes. 

Yeow Seng, spearheading IOI Properties, has been steadily expanding the company's presence in Singapore, with plans underway for a multibillion-dollar office complex in the city's central business district.

Tan Sri Francis Yeoh and his siblings have surged seven spots to secure the seventh position on the list, with their combined wealth more than tripling to US$4.7 billion.

Property mogul Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah, renowned for Sunway Bhd's township developments across Malaysia, has also more than doubled his wealth to US$2.4 billion, claiming the eighth spot in the top 10 for the first time.

Tan Sri Ong Leong Huat, leading the financial services-to-property firm OSK Holdings, is preparing to launch the third phase of Melbourne Square, a A$2.8 billion mixed-use complex developed in collaboration with the Employees Provident Fund in Southbank, Melbourne. Ong, who serves as the executive chairman of OSK, has seen a 35 percent increase in his net worth, now reaching US$560 million, according to Forbes.

Meanwhile, brothers Lim Peng Cheong and Lim Peng Jin, the major shareholders of packaging giant Scientex Bhd, witnessed a 20 per cent surge in their net worth, now standing at US$885 million. 

During the first half of fiscal 2024, Scientex's residential property division invested RM507 million in acquiring 325 hectares of freehold land in Johor and Selangor, marking an almost eightfold increase from the previous fiscal year's total land expenditure. This reflects their ambitious target of constructing 50,000 affordable homes nationwide by 2028. By February, Scientex had made significant progress, delivering 33,580 affordable homes, with the majority priced below RM300,000.

"The outlook for affordable housing in Malaysia is promising, given the persistent shortage," Scientex chief executive officer Lim Peng Jin told Forbes by email.

In its debut overseas ventures last year, Scientex collaborated with Jakarta-based Mustika Land and Japan's Creed Group to develop 400 affordable homes in West Java, Indonesia, with a gross development value of US$19 million. Additionally, it initiated a US$42 million joint venture in Thailand to construct 334 townhomes in Bangkok's Bang Na district alongside Creed and Thailand's Altitude Development.

A surge in home sales propelled Scientex's revenue to RM2.2 billion in the quarter ending January 2024, marking a 2.0 percent rise.

Forbes reported that three individuals from last year's list did not meet the cutoff, which was slightly raised to US$320 million, including property developer Yu Kuan Chon, as shares of his YNH Property Bhd plummeted amid financial concerns.

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