The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Given Rise To Malaysia's 5th Billionaire

Wong Teek Son, who is the co-founder of gloves manufacturer Riverstone, has a net worth of RM5 billion.

Cover image via Kelvin Chng/The Straits Times

Businesses everywhere are suffering amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the opposite is true for rubber glove companies.

Meet Wong Teek Son, the co-founder of Riverstone, a glove manufacturing company.

Wong has become Malaysia's fifth billionaire in dollar terms, emerging amidst the pandemic.

His newfound wealth came after his rubber glove company, listed on Singapore's stock exchange, underwent a six-fold growth in share price over the past few months, reported Bloomberg.

He is now worth USD1.2 billion (RM5 billion).

Riverstone's co-founder Wong Teek Son.

Image via Singapore Exchange via The Straits Times

What's surprising is that Wong's fortune probably would not lead him to becoming a billionaire today had he not lost his job back in 1989

Co-founding Riverstone was never his intention in the late 80s when he was still working as a research and development chemist in a company that supplied cleanroom products.

In an interview with the Singapore Exchange (SGX) in 2016, he said, "The opportunity presented itself only because the company I worked for shut down, and we were able to use their production lines."

"We realised we needed to provide a service to our customers."

Fast forward 31 years later, Wong has ascended to the status of a billionaire at a time when the frontliners around the world are desperate for rubber gloves to conduct their daily duty

Image via Riverstones

According to its latest annual report, Riverstone is capable of producing nine billion gloves annually.

2020 has proven to be its best year yet, as profits doubled to RM137.5 million in the first half of the year.

Albeit its main operation is based in Malaysia, Wong listed his company in the SGX in 2006 because Malaysia had stricter currency controls.

Riverstone's spokesman also said funds raised in Singapore were more easily transferable to China and Thailand - the two countries where the company was trying to expand to then.

Meanwhile, the spokesman declined to comment on Wong's billion-dollar net worth

Although Wong has ridden the wave of the high rubber glove demand over the past few months, his company has experienced a sharp decline in share price after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the country has cleared the world's first COVID-19 vaccine for use.

At the same time, two US companies - Moderna and Johnson & Johnson - were in talks with their federal government to supply their vaccines.

According to Bloomberg, the development had caused Riverstone's share price to plummet by 13% last week - its worst week since March.

However, RHB Research Institute analyst Alan Lim noted in a report that vaccines for COVID-19 will not drive out the demand for gloves.

Lim contended that investors may sell their shares in anticipation that it will reduce the number of COVID-19 cases.

It is worth noting that Malaysia is the king when it comes to glove manufacturing. Bloomberg reported that Malaysia manufactures 65% of the world's rubber gloves.

Two months ago, the founders of two rubber glove companies became billionaires in dollar terms amidst the pandemic as well:

In early March, 'Forbes Malaysia Rich List' revealed that six out of the top 10 billionaires suffered billions of losses in net worth:

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