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Wilmar founder triples stake in Singapore’s Perennial

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Wilmar International’s billionaire founder Kuok Khoon Hong has tripled his stake in a China property trust and set up a S$500 million ($400 million) investment firm with a former CapitaLand executive, raising his exposure to the real estate sector.

Kuok, Singapore’s second richest man according to Forbes, increased his deemed interest in Perennial China Retail Trust to 16.9 percent from 5.0 percent, Perennial said in a statement late on Wednesday.

He will also set up an investment vehicle called Perennial Real Estate Holdings with Perennial China’s founder Pua Seck Guan. Kuok will have an interest of around 49.5 percent, while Pua, the former head of retail at Southeast Asia’s biggest developer CapitaLand Ltd, will hold 20 percent.

Through his investment in Perennial Real Estate Holdings, Kuok will also gain a bigger stake in the entity that manages Perennial China.

News of Kuok’s increased stake in the trust, which he bought from former substantial shareholder Chinese businessman Tong Jinquan for around S$60 million, pushed Perennial China units up by as much as 8.1 percent on Thursday.

Around 0227 GMT, Perennial China was traded at S$0.52, up 5.1 percent.

CIMB analyst Donald Chua, who has a buy call on Perennial with a price target of S$0.65, said the trust will gain from Kuok’s “strong network of business contacts in China”.

But the exit of Perennial’s main China shareholder was a concern, he added.

Kuok, the chairman and CEO of Wilmar International, the world’s largest listed palm oil firm, has shown an interest in property as far back as 2010 when Wilmar teamed up with firms linked to his uncle, Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok, to seek real estate projects in China’s Liaoning province.

Wilmar co-founder Martua Sitorus, who is the firm’s chief operating officer, also increased his deemed interest in Perennial China to 5.662 percent from 3.165 percent previously, according to corporate filings late on Wednesday.

Tony Simon

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