Thursday, 16 August, 2012 | 15:30 WIB
Low Tuck Kwong, and the Fate of Gunung Bayan
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:Starting from a concession in Mantan and Lebak Cilong, Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan, Low Tuck Kwong has conquered the coal business.
THE FATE of Haji Asri is in stark contrast to that of Low Tuck Kwong. The Asri family, now living in Surabaya, has to toil away in order to survive. The wife of Asri, Sri Retnowati, sometimes has to sell cakes as the pocket of her spouse is thinning. In fact, in 1997 Asri was the owner of PT Gunung Bayan Pratama Coal, controlling a 100,000-hectare coal concession in Mantan and Lebak Cilong, Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan.
Low Tuck Kwong has been familiar to Asri. The Singapore-born man was the surveyor of Gunung Bayan’s land. According to the Forbes magazine, Low was the fourth wealthiest man in Indonesia last year. His assets reached the value of US$3.7 billion or almost Rp35 trillion. In the preceding year, his assets still listed US$2.6 billion. It means in a year, Low’s coffers increased by Rp10 trillion. The 64-year-old is now dubbed the king of Kalimantan coal.
Low’s successful entry into the rank of richest people in Indonesia began from an acquisition on November 22, 1997. He purchased Gunung Bayan from Asri at only Rp5 billion. Low’s position promptly rose from the owner of a surveyor firm to that of a coal concession covering 100,000 hectares. The proven reserve of Gunung Bayan totaled 175.9 million tons.
A year later, Gunung Bayan started its production. Low divided his concession area into two blocks: Blok Lebak Cilong and Blok Mantan. The initial production began in Mantan. In the first year, Mantan turned out 300,000 tons. After two years, its output soared to 1.44 million tons annually. The Lebak Cilong block followed only in 2008.
Low’s company kept expanding. One of his important moves was the purchase of PT Dermaga Perkasapratama, a mining and coal terminal operator in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, in 1998. From this terminal, Low’s coal has been shipped to several countries such as Italy, Japan, Taiwan and India.
October 2004 was a new milestone for Low Tuck Kwong. In that year, Low, already trying his luck in Indonesia since 1972, changed the name of his company from PT Gunung Bayan to PT Bayan Resources. In this company he assumed the post of president director—now holding the office of chairman of the board.
In a study by Trimegah Sekuritas, PT Bayan was the eighth largest coal producer group in Indonesia based on its production volume in 2007. In that year, Bayan yielded as high as 4.7 million tons. This quantity was derived from his eight mining companies in eight concession areas, mostly located in Borneo Island. This year Bayan sets its coal production target at 19.4 million tons.
Low’s fortune shone brighter when PT Bayan was going public in 2008. Its share price tripled from then on, reaching Rp17,700 per unit in 2011. Last year he also explored his luck overseas. His company spent US$270 million to acquire Kangaroo Resources Limited, a mining operator in Australia with coal concessions in Indonesia.
In Singapore, PT Bayan owns the shares of Manhattan Resources and Singapore HealthPartners. This company plans to open a hospital integrated with a medical center and hotel in Singapore next year. Until last year, the tentacles of Bayan Group had covered 31 subsidiaries.
The market capitalization of Bayan Resources in the first quarter of this year already reached Rp54 trillion or almost 11,000-fold compared to the acquisition value in 1997. Bayan Resources has become a company with the 15th largest capitalization at the Indonesian Stock Exchange.
The bright performance of Bayan was boosted by the rocketing price of coal in 2011, rising to level of US$98 per ton, far from PT Bayan top officials’ estimate of US$ 75 per ton. The price hike caused the wealth of Bayan to multiply as its production also leaped 32 percent from 11.9 million tons in 2010 to 15.6 million tons in 2011. MTQ, Bobby Chandra, Kukuh S. Wibowo ****