He's a billionaire on port-ops IPO

TOP DOLLAR: Mr G. Gnanalingam and his family's stake in Westports is valued at about US$1.2 billion, not counting the millions from stock sale.


    Oct 04, 2013

    He's a billionaire on port-ops IPO

    WESTPORTS Holdings executive chairman G. Gnanalingam has become a billionaire, as the main operator at one of Malaysia's biggest ports sells shares in the country's largest initial public offering this year.

    Mr Gnanalingam, 69, and his family will reduce their stake in Westports to 46.8 per cent from 60 per cent previously, according to the company's prospectus.

    Their stake in the company after the share sale is valued at about US$1.2 billion (S$1.5 billion), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

    He and his family are also getting about US$350 million from selling some stock.

    The shares will start trading in Kuala Lumpur on Oct 18.

    Westports operates facilities at Port Klang, one of the main hubs serving container traffic along the Strait of Malacca, which links Asia with the Middle East and Europe. It has a 69 per cent share of container volume at the port, with six terminals and the potential to build another three, according to its website.

    "It is strategic in terms of shipping logistics," said Mr Alan Richardson, a Hong Kong-based money manager at Samsung Asset Management. "It is well located along the Strait of Malacca, which is the key shipping route from the West to the East."

    Westports raised RM2.03 billion (S$794 million) in the IPO. The port operator priced its shares at RM2.50 apiece, at the top end of a range offered to investors, in the face of excess demand from investors.

    The billionaire, who declined to comment on the share sale or plans for Westports, said that he runs the company like a soccer team manager.

    "You prepare the team, and train them up and let them play their own game," he said in an interview by phone yesterday. "At the end of the season, you look for better players."

    Known as "Tan Sri G" - Tan Sri is an honorific title bestowed by the Malaysian king - the billionaire is preparing to hand over the reins of the company to his 37-year-old son, Mr Ruben Emir Gnanalingam, the chief executive officer. Mr Ruben joined Westports in 2005 after graduating from the London School of Economics & Political Science.

    Born in Singapore, the patriarch started Westports "from a barren, swampy island" and transformed it into the main container-terminal operator in Port Klang, according to the website.