(Reuters) - Indonesia is set to see an investment wave of more than $2.5 billion to nearly double palm oil refining capacity, with much of the expansion led by companies owned by some of the most powerful tycoons in this Southeast Asian country.
Here are some facts about Indonesia’s palm oil tycoons:
- In 2007, self-made Martua Sitorus merged his palm oil business with that of Kuok Khoon Hong, a nephew of Malaysia’s richest man. The result: Wilmar International, the world’s largest listed palm oil firm with an empire of estates, refineries, oilseed crushers and ships across five continents. Wilmar is now the biggest palm oil refiner in Indonesia and controls much of the oilseed trade with China, leading some to call the Singapore-listed firm Asia’s Cargill.
- Along with his brothers, publicity-shy Bachtiar Karim runs Musim Mas, a private palm oil firm with the second-largest refining capacity in Indonesia. The family-run firm traces its roots to the Nam Cheong Soap Factory, which Karim’s father Anwar founded in 1972. The company now exports palm oil mostly to India — the world’s largest edible oil importer.
Eka Tjipta Widjaja
- An immigrant from China, Indonesia’s oldest palm oil tycoon started out as a teenager selling biscuits from a rickshaw in the late 1930s. Widjaja, now close to 90 years old, created one of the biggest palm oil empires in Southeast Asia. His family’s most valuable holding includes Singapore-listed Golden Agri Resources, the parent of Indonesia’s largest plantation company SMART. In 2010, SMART was accused by green groups of illegally clearing forests to expand. An independent audit showed SMART did breach some environmental laws, which it later said it would rectify.
- Anthony Salim is the youngest son of Liem Sioe Liong, a tycoon who had close ties to President Suharto. Liem, who died last month, had his Jakarta house destroyed by a mob during 1998 riots that led to Suharto’s fall. Salim negotiated with the Indonesian government to settle more than $5 billion in debts and kept control of PT Indofood Sukses Makmur, crown jewel of his father’s empire and a giant maker of instant noodles. He expanded interests in oil palm plantations, which now include Singapore-listed Indofood Agri and its Indonesian subsidiary firm Salim Ivomas Pratama.
- Easily the youngest palm oil tycoon, 36-year-old Ciliandra Fangiono heads Singapore-listed plantation company First Resources. Cambridge-educated Fangionio was previously a Merrill Lynch investment banker and under his stewardship First Resources was listed in 2007 and has been a favored analyst stock pick for its huge unplanted landbank and aggressive production growth.
- Aburizal Bakrie is one of Indonesia’s wealthiest men, ranked number 30 by Forbes magazine with a net worth of around $900 million. In 2004, he went into politics and is a candidate in the 2014 presidential election. He has left the running of Bakrie Group — an empire of plantations, coal mines, media and construction companies — to his brother Nirwan. The family business has been on a rollercoaster ride, and ratings agency Standard & Poor’s recently put plantation arm Bakrie Sumatera on ratings watch as it is taking longer than expected to finalize a loan to repay older debts. Bakrie Sumatera is also looking to expand rubber estates to tap rising prices of latex.
- The son of Chinese migrants, Tanoto dropped out of school in Medan on Sumatra when he was a teenager to help out his family and later built a conglomerate Raja Garuda Emas. Through the group, 62-year-old Tanato owns unlisted entities including palm oil firm Asian Agri overseeing 160,000 hectares of estates and paper manufacturer Asia Pacific Resources International Limited.
- After selling the family cigarette business to Philip Morris in 2005 for more than $5 billion, Putera Sampoerna has used the proceeds to invest in businesses from banking to telecommunications. Over the years, Sampoerna developed his family’s existing plantations to create Sampoerna Agro. His son Michael is now the president commissioner of the palm oil firm.
Reporting by Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Ed Davies