The Hijrah Man

The Syed Mokhar success story; now available in all MPH stores

When his name is mentioned, the quick response would be “One of the richest Malaysian, if not the richest Malay”. Known for a corporate man. A courageous businessman. Some other would acknowledge the fact that he is great philanthropist.

Regardless, he did so many things that changed the lives of many others. His discipline, focus and steadfastness has many times proven his visions, gambits and decisions right. He ventured into turfs and waters previously unthinkable to be challenged. He re-wrote the strategy and tactics of the game.

Yes, it is Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhary.

His humble beginnings and hardship taught him the resilience, discipline and values such as his tight-knit family, being a Muslim and a Kedahan. These are the key to his success story. He was prudent with his management, careful with his spending, capitalized on opportunities, innovative with his business strategy and bold with business decisions. As a Malay businessman, ventured into traditional turfs controlled by Non Malays. In fact, he ‘Baba-Ali’ed these business turfs’ ‘rules of engagement’.

Syed Mokhtar made strategic partnerships. He insists to be actively involved and participative in all his partnerships. Any proceeds derived from his business ventures either saved or re-invested into the business.

Two great Kedahans

He started as a cattle trader. Then he started to supply meat. That grew into rice trading. From that, he went into partnerships with Chinese businessmen for rice milling. All these opened opportunities for his own transportation. When the logistics networked expanded, he capitalized the value chain for corresponding businesses.

The New Economic Policy (NEP) was launched 1971, at the times where Syed Mokhtar had just got his business incorporated into a formal structure. As a Bumiputera businessman, he was awarded contracts. These contracts were expanded and the operations grew that warrant for him to acquire more businesses. As the business obtained economies of scale, he capitalized these production capabilities and capacities for Non Governmental businesses, which also include outside the country.

Excerpts from the book ‘Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhary: A Biography’:

“Events then took a sudden turn when my Chinese partner declared we needed to increase the paid up capital to RM 400,000.00. He had the funds. I did not. If I did not make up the difference, my shares would be diluted, and he would become the major shareholder instead. I refused to let this happen”.

“I turned to my parents for help. They had two plots of land that were mortgaged to secure a loan from the United Malayan Banking Corporation. I was thus able to raise the necessary funds to retain my controlling stake in Bukhary Sdn. Bhd. In the Memorandum of Association that was later drawn up for Bukhary Sdn. Bhd., I instructed the lawyer to include an additional clause, which stated that the Bumiputera stake in the company should not be diluted under any circumstances”.

Yayasan Al Bukhary

That was in the mid 70s. He made sure his businesses grew and capitalized the opportunities created from activities, that were generated from socio-economic programs to generate growth.

“As a trader, it is important not to just be a delivery boy. The Government made this clear, especially when awarding contracts to Bumiputeras. The contracts required us to pack our products and encouraged us to become involved in manufacturing. I took the cue, and started to set up factories”.

His initial contract from MINDEF to supply uniforms to the Malaysian Armed Forces was expanded into manufacturing. Then he secured deals to supply to American brands such as JC Penney and K-Mart. As this business expand along with his rice trading, milling and wholesale, Syed Mokhtar dwelt into logistics operations. By 1982, Bukhary Shipping Sdn. Bhd. was formed and started operations to utilize Kontena Nasional’s business.

Less than 3 years later, this company bought their first vessel.

Islamic Arts Museum

Within the same time as all these business were being developed and expanding, Syed Mokhtar also got into construction and property development. He was probably one of the earliest Malay property developer in Kedah.

It was without doubt that Syed Mokhtar was one of the most active Bumiputera entrepreneurs in the 80s. This opened more opportunities for him as there were so few Malay businessmen with the necessary capital, experience and business network. Hence, he started to embark on bigger projects awarded by the Federal Government.

The boom on early 1990s opened up opportunities for a Malay businessman who already has made a bit of money. It was the era of IPOs and Syed Mokhtar started his shopping spree as the ‘market is open for business’. He started to socialize and entertain Chinese business owners, winning them over with his business acumen.They were men who wanted to list their companies.

“They found in him a serious investor, who refused to be involved in ‘Ali-Baba’ deals.  He earned their respect, and was recognized as a respectable Bumiputera partner” says Peter Chong, Syed Mokhtar’s accountant and close business confidante “Syed Mokhtar does not sell his shares after listing. In fact, when he buys into a company, it is to add value to the shares. He does not buy and sell shares”.

DRB-Hicom automotive and defense industry complex near Pekan, Pahang

Says Syed Mokhtar,

“I enjoyed this phase of corporate acquisition that occurred between 1990 and 1997. No one knew me, and no one detected main the market. I borrowed from Singapore banks, and my moves remained secret. They were so quiet that even my wife did not know what I was up to”.

By 1995, he was a shareholder in 15 PLCs. They include Elba, Amtek, BCB, Binapuri, Eden. IJM, Latitude Tree, Oriental Garments, Padini, Pilecon, TGL and The Star. It was a mixed portfolio, from garments to food, manufacturing and construction. He was also actively involved in logistics. Even though he was a major player, he remained elusive from public knowledge and media coverage.

Naturally, with these track records and holdings, Syed Mokhtar qualified for privatization programs. In 1995, he won the privatisation of  Kejora’s commercial arm because of better proposal and price, against more notable plantation groups such as IOI and KL Kepong. The company was restructured and listed as Johor Tenggara Oil Plantations at then KLSE. Today, it has been restructured as Tradewinds Bhd.

“In the 1990s, people did not know who I was, what I did, how much I had. The privatization awards were federal projects that were evaluated by the Economic Planning Unit in Kuala Lumpur. I participated in the bids because I am a well-established businessman with a strong credit rating. Nothing was given to me on a silver plate. All my money came from handwork and sweat”.

Port of Tanjung Pelepas

He also privatized Johor Port. Then, he embarked into the most ambitious project at the time, which is the Port of Tanjung Pelepas. He wanted to take on the Port of Singapore. When he presented his ambitious plans to then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on his encounter with the Father of Modernisation and Industrialisation for the first time on 16 January 1997, this was the latter’s remarks:

“I remembered him showing me his plans for the Port of Tanjung Pelepas. I admit I found it grand and thought he would not succeed”.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also said,

“Syed Mokhtar distinguishes himself from other Malay and Malaysian businessmen because he is a man with great ambition. He is a cattle and rice trader, and there are very few Malays in this business. It is also not common for people with this background to aspire for big projects such as container port”.

Today after 13 years of operations, PTP is handling one third of TEUs that is passing through Port of Singapore. He has proven his worthiness to be a captain-of-the-industry. The man who saw the opportunity to start a lorry transportation company forty years ago, now has his own shipping company and  two respectable ports in the region.

He also took challenges laid to him by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He developed the Islamic Arts Museum, next to National Mosque. And it was done in record breaking speed. He also developed Kompleks Ilmu Sharifah Rokiah in Alor Setar.

Wawasan Open University, Penang. The blue building is also known as Al Bukhary Building, for the RM 25 million contribution to the tertiary institution

Syed Mokhtar was asked to take over certain companies which is necessary to be rescued, for the strategic importance. In 2001, PERNAS was acquired. He paid much more than it was worth. PERNAS was turned around. The same happened for DRB-Hicom. Before that was Malaysian Mining Corporation. When he wanted to inject Johor Port into MMC, against the advise of a financial consultant who suggested that that he could make a lot of money by keeping it private and farming it out.

“Syed Mokhtar flatly refused. His aim was to raise the value of MMC. If he was selfish, he would have kept Johor Port for himself. Instead, he chose to forgo personal profit for the benefit of his new acquisition. It maybe a related party transaction but there was also a personal sacrifice”.

All these acquisitions were generated from his own funds and borrowings raised. He turned around all these PLCs and now, clearly transformed them into bigger operations and value. In the acquisition of PERNAS, he even put in his own personal money. The investment community was dumbstruck, Syed Mokhtar says,

“It was a difficult deal and people say I was mad. It was technically bankrupt, with RM 2.6 billion of liabilities. I paid RM 500 million for a company that was worth RM 120 million on Bursa Malaysia. Although it was listed as Pernas International Hotel and Properties (PIHP), I saw it as more than just hotels. It also had plantations. There was potential for synergy with my other companies”.

The crown jewel in PIHP (now Tradewinds), Mutiara Crowne Plaza Kuala Lumpur in Jalan Sultan Ismail (formerly known as Kuala Lumpur Hilton)

“I spent RM 1.4 billion cash and assets to stabiles the group. The acquisition cost was RM 500 million, and I injected assets worth RM 700 million, and personal cash of RM 200 million”.

When Syed Mokhtar acquired MMC, it was valued at RM 1.5 billion. After the transformation, which include injections of businesses, MMC rose to a value of RM 8 billion.

The more recent acquisition is Proton. The Federal Government is putting a lot of confidence on him to deliver. His track record of turning around DRB-Hicom and enhanced its operations and value, especially in the automotive and defense industry is the strong testimony to pick up where Khazanah failed to do.

The name Syed Mokhtar is also synonymous to someone who has done a lot of charity. He built mosques. He gave money to the poor, orphans and under privileged. He gave money to schools and education establishments. He top-up savings of poor and old folks who desire to perform Hajj for the first time. He incorporated an international university in Alor Setar. He gave sponsorship not only to Malaysians, but Muslims from other nations.

Al Bukhary Mosque, part of the Kompleks Ilmu Sharifah Rokiah

Today, the Al Bukhary Group embarked into partnerships and business ventures with corporations from Saudi Arabia and gulf states, especially United Arab Emirates. His UAE partner Chairman of Emaar Group Mohamed Ali Alabbar described him as:

“The only Malaysian businessman who is actively engaging with the Arab world on either business or humanitarian projects through his involvement with me. He also known as one of the businessmen to have contributed to the Malaysian economy, which is highly regarded in the Arab world”.

Syed Mokhtar witnessing signing for an agreement to develop a smelting project in Jazan Economic City, 2007

Governor and Chairman of  Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority Amr Al-Dabbagh who appointed Al Bukhary Group as a joint master developer of the USD 30 billion Jazan Economic City, had this to say about Syed Mokhtar,

“My first and lasting impression of Syed Mokhtar was formed during a presentation he gave when we visited him and his management team at Port of Tanjung Pelepas, in south western Johor. After several of his top management team had walked us through presentations of some of the MMC subsidiary companies, Syed Mokhtar gave a presentation of his humanitarian activities, which at that time were many and very impressive. We had already done our due diligence on MMC as a possible joint venture master developer for Jazan Economic City, but it was that point I felt Syed Mokhtar would be able to bring the kind of leadership we needed into our project. In addition to creating a viable product, we also wanted a team that could take a long term, humanitarian view in contributing to both the Saudi economy and society”.

Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhary is someone who has brought a lot of transformation, ranging from the development of the people, landscape of business and Islam. So many people benefitted from his continuous generosity. 110,000 people are employed directly under his group and another 250,000 indirectly. He is the ‘soap-box’ who has made someone from the Malaysian business community at par with world class businessmen of other races.

He is the ‘Hijrah Man’.

The philanthropic Billionaire and the Prime Minister with a Transformation Agenda

Selamat menyambut Awal Muharam 1424H.

*The Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhary Biography is available at MPH stores nationwide

Published in: on November 15, 2012 at 06:00  Comments (14)  

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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well Mahathir said Syed Mokhtar reported to him every week. Now that is a surprise seeing that he is not member of cabinet but a business seeking licenses and contract.

    Syed Mokhtar is Tamil and so is Mahathir. How can he claim that the NEP borned out of Malay frustration is to enrich him alone?

    Did the Malays rioted two years earlier so that this Tamil can be multi billionaire.

    Is it the aim of the NEP to make Syed Mohktar filthy rich with monopoly licenses while the Malays are reduced to beggars in their own country.

    The Malays must undo what have been given by Mahahtir. Monopoly licenses must be broken up.

    Ports and airports belonging to the states must be given back to the Malays of the respective states.

    Social justice demands that the Malays riot in 1969 is not taken advantage of by Tamils.

    If Syed Mokhtar and Mahathir have done any good, its thank you to them but the Malays are reclaiming their heritage, thank you.

    • What an emotional idiot. The guy is of arabic descent and you still want to implied there is Tamil or whatever connection that you imagined.

      If you want to play that card, fine, so you think Pak Lah did a better job than Mahathir in advancing Malay economic standing? Did the chinese towkay not monopolised individually or by way of shadowy cartel in this country? You dont seem to be bothered by that, yet you focus on critisizing the one person who is by definition as Malay as anyone of us, more importantly perhaps even more Malay than you in his heart and contribution to the Malay community.

      Stupid beyond salvage!

    • The racist bloke at 15:38 tries to make fun of Malays, not respecting the Constitutional definition of a Malay and people like Tun Dr Mahathir has admitted to having Indian blood but he has 75% Malay blood and there is no question of his status as a Malay. So is TS Syed Mokhtar, I’m sure.

      The bloke sounds like being a Chinese and he should be told the following (c&p-ed from somewhere):

      You people keep making fun of the Malays, mamaks, etc, what about you Chinese? What’s the equivalent to call you all also having mixed blood? Now, now, don’t say you people are pure Chinese.

      Here is what Professor C.P. Fitzgerald says in his book, “A Short Cultural History of China” (600+ pages) – he lived in China for 5 years to research and gather material for that book:

      The phrase “origin of the Chinese people” is in itself misleading.

      1. Chinese culture took root in the plains of Manchuria, a foreign country until after World War II
      2. The northern provinces have always to some degree been mixed with “peoples from the Mongolian steppes”
      3. The southern and central provinces of China were, before the northerners moved southwards, “covered” by non-Chinese, the Miao, small in size and who the Chinese were contemptuous of.
      4. The south was originally occupied by “aboriginal tribes”. The ancestors of most of the migrants to Malaya/ sia came from the south. The Professor said, “A large proportion of the population of the south calling itself ‘Chinese’ is in fact descended from one or other of the aboriginal races” – page 6. Many living in the interior, in the hills and the highlands. Even in modern times, in Yunnan and Kueichou, tribesmen number half the population.

      The southerners comprise the following major groups:

      a. Fukienese (Hokkien), “a separate stock, mixed with immigrants from the north and the Yangtze Valley” and speaking “a peculiar dialect”.
      b. Cantonese, also speak a somewhat alien language, a form of old Chinese – the south was colonized by the northerners, colonization completed in the 7th Century – some 800 years after China was formed as a political entity by Chin Shih Huang Di.
      c. Hakkas, of Kuantung province, known as “guest families” – they speak a peculiar dialect, despised by the Cantonese and do not inter marry. These people were said to have come from the north, running away from frequent Mongol invasions that culminated in the conquest of China by Genghis Khan in the 13th Century.

      So, if any of you are referred to as descendants of the Miao (who are aborigines and non-Chinese), or other aborigines of south China, don’t blame me, I’m just a messenger of the news. You can’t also blame Professor Fitzgerald any more because he died some years ago.

      So, how about we refrain from racial profiling and name calling, ha? Still angry with me, wanna call me names? Don’t la, coz you also can be called names.

      • The May 13 fellow talks like a DAP Chinese, scathing remarks about NEP etc.

        Here is also a C & P that maybe suit him better:

        “He has a foul mouth and incorrigibly bad manners. He is descended from a mixture of races, including the non-Chinese races in China that history Professors have written about, the bad aspects of which manifest in him –

        Mongol (hugely polygamous Genghiz Khan invaders and colonizers in the 13th Century), Tungus, Turk, Tai, Miao, Tibetan, Manchu (invaders and colonizers embedding themselves in China for several hundred years, ruling until the 20th Century – from Manchuria, a foreign country until after World War II), Yueh, Yao, etc. And the hill tribes of southern China – the Cina Bukit.

        That’s why he is biadap and kurang ajar. Commenting without decorum and decency. Only he and his kind are like that – biadap (DAP Vice Chairman Tunku Aziz also said that of Lim Guan Eng when he bolted out of the party) and kurang ajar, the Cina Bukit kind.”

  2. “Events then took a sudden turn when my Chinese partner declared we needed to increase the paid up capital to RM 400,000.00. He had the funds. I did not. If I did not make up the difference, my shares would be diluted, and he would become the major shareholder instead…”

    Honestly, did anything changed after so many years?

    The story line is straight forward. Honest, hardworking Malay entrepreuner trying to work his way up. Unfortunately he’s in a field dominated by other etnic some of whom come to think that that field is ‘theirs’. If there is any Bumiputera trying to make headway, he must be ‘dealt with’. Funny thing is, this is all happening to a Malay in a country named Malay-a/sia so soon after the 13th May Incident.

    And you think Tony Pua acting like ‘kera kena belacan’ attacking this (and other) successful Malay entrepreneur and philanthropist left, right and center something new. Oh while you are at it, Tony Pua and DAP, lets look the other way as far as the other 7-8 towkay in the top 10 riches Malaysian concern; each of whom individually is richer than hundreds of thousands of Melayu marhaen like us put together.

    Untuk saudara-saudari sebangsa saya, kenapa agaknya kalau Melayu jadi kaya terus dituduh kroni, rasuah, salah guna kuasa dan sebagainya. Kalau Cina jadi kaya, oh diorang pandai berniaga. Kenapa kita harus terima persepsi negatif seperti ini? Kalau orang-orang macam Tony Pua boleh fitnah Syed Mokhtar dan pada masa yang sama bela towkay-towkay sebangsa dengan dia, kita terima bulat-bulat, pasrah dan duduk diam-diam tercongok macam ayam berak kapur. Siapa kata towkayx cina ni semuanya jujur dan bersih?

    Dulu puak yang macam ni juga, bila dapat peluang terus angkat senjata seksa dan bunuh tuk-nenek kita tanpa belas kasihan. Nak negeri orang melayu berugama islam jadi negeri komunis. Lepas menang pilihanraya pulak terus arak penyapu di tengah-tengah Kuala Lumpur macamlah kita semua tak ada maruah. Semua tu gagal, kita tetap berkuasa untuk tentukan untung nasib kita sendiri. Baik buruk sekalipun itu keputusan dan hak kita. Sekarang ni kita berpecah belah sesama kita, tak nampak lagikah yang mereka sekali lagi cuba ambik kesempatan, malah pendekatan mereka jauh lebih ‘berani’ dari dulu. Padahal jumlah mereka sejemput sahaja berbanding kita. Letaklah politik ditepi sekejap dan renungkanlah. Kalau saudara/ri sokong pihak yang satu lagi (hak saudara/ri) betulkah niat mereka untuk bekerjasama dengan saudara/ri demi kebaikan bersama atau mereka ada agenda mereka sendiri? Kalau ikut fakta sejarah jawapannya jelas.

    Saya bukan orang politik, bukan ahli parti politik, bukan bisnesman, tak pernah jumpa Syed Mokhtar dan tak dapat 5 sen pun dari sesiapa. Cuma saya selalu tanya diri saya, sampai bila kita nak biarkan maruah bangsa kita dipijak-pijak orang?

  3. The more recent acquisition is Proton. The Federal Government is putting a lot of confidence on him to deliver. His track record of turning around DRB-Hicom and enhanced its operations and value, especially in the automotive and defense industry is the strong testimony to pick up where Khazanah failed to do………………….tak kan cepat sangat pulihkan DRB…kalau nak spin biarlah munasabah sikit…malu lah

  4. i read in the star newspaper today , an article by the UITM lawyer, the real hijrah man is Tan Sri Arshad …..the ITM icon………….

    • Thank you.

      You are free to name your own ‘Hijrah Man’. Please do it in your own blog.

    • Hahaha msiakita, sure lah the UITM lawyer would speak for Tan Sri Arshad, formerly of ITM.

      But you won’t even tell how exactly he contributes to the Malays and the country. And you won’t even try to assess the value of his contribution. Coz will clearly be seen as not comparable to Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar, innit?

      So many other Malays have also contributed lah. Thanks to NEP, more and more Malays have higher education and the DAP blokes no longer can say anything they like, any time they like in blogosphere without being challenged or whacked.

  5. The idiot 15:38 is not only racist but also seditious. He should be hauled in under the Sedition Act, or even the new laws replacing the ISA.

    He doesn’t even have a clue on the difference between someone with Tamil blood and another with Arabic blood. He bothers not, because his aim is to sow hatred against leading personalities he does not like.

    He disputes the statement that NEP was born out of Malay frustration and idiotically, wildly accuses that the NEP was to enrich one particular person. How idiotic can that be.

    He talks about monopoly licenses and such monopoly licenses must be broken up. Yet he doesn’t explain what monopoly licenses. He has no clue about the privatization concept and that ports and airports are being operated by the private sector in US and UK long before Malaysia adopted that practice. And that the operators must have the capacity to handle the port and airport operations.

    And he may be inciting others by saying “Social justice demands that the Malays riot in 1969 is not taken advantage of by Tamils.” I hope the authorities will trace his IP and teach him a lesson.

    • The idiot should also be told that monopolies were given to the Chinese as well. Robert Kuok had the sugar monopoly for a long time until he became rich, multiplied his wealth, and became a billioinaire, the richest in this country.

      Vincent Tan was also given a lottery license – one and only of its kind – from which he made easy money, amassed further capital to expand his businesses that enabled him to have several hundred millions.

  6. […] Ini merupakan sebab mengapa ramai orang Melayu sendiri mudah terpengaruh dengan konotasi Bukan Melayu apabila soal usahawan Melayu yang berjaya dan membuktikan keupayaan untuk meningkatkan syarikat dan perusahaan. Personaliti seperti Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhary sering dilihat dengan konotasi negatif. […]

  7. […] industry and most importantly, opportunity to others especially aspiring Bumiputera entrepreneurs. His track record is the perfect testimony where he has been, where he got to and how he did […]

  8. […] truth is that Syed Mokhtar is an model of a Hijrah Man. He brought commercial, cultural and social transformation and was successful at that. That is […]

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