By Abram Brown, Forbes Staff.
This story appears in the December 15, 2014 issue of Forbes Asia.
The great cigarette fortune accumulated by Susilo Wonowidjojo appeared ready to go up in smoke. Problems at his $5 billion (sales) Gudang Garam were sparked by heavy rains that drenched clove fields in 2011. The resulting harvest was particularly poor. Indonesian farmers accustomed to annually producing some 80,000 tons of cloves gathered less than half that figure that year. The following year was dismal, too. Gudang Garam’s costs rose as clove prices climbed from around Rp 60,000 per kilogram to almost four times that figure. A packaging snafu last year worsened the situation, and investors panicked, driving Gudang Garam’s stock down. With the shares’ decline, Wonowidjojo experienced the largest drop on last year’s list of Indonesia’s wealthiest–he lost more than $2 billion. His net worth stood at $5.3 billion.
A year later Wonowidjojo has experienced a striking comeback, with his fortune climbing $2.7 billion, pushing him into the No. 2 spot on this year’s list with $8 billion. Gudang Garam’s stock has soared by almost 60% since the last list, versus a 6% increase for the Jakarta Composite Index. While clove prices dropped, Gudang Garam investors have refocused on the bright prospects for machine-rolled cigarettes in Indonesia, including a better crop. “The 2014 clove harvest appears to have been pretty good,” says Janni Asman, a Maybank Kim Eng analyst, who projects Gudang Garam stock could rise another 25% in a year.
Other plutocrats were less fortunate. In fact, the majority of those returning to the list watched their wealth fall or stay flat. Blame a decreasing rupiah and bad times for coal and palm oil, two industries in which these capitalists have invested heavily. Four tycoons from last year’s list didn’t make the cut. The most notable absentee is Kiki Barki–a billionaire as recently as March 2013 but worth only some $350 million now following a massive drop in the stock price of his coal miner, Harum Energy . The minimum net worth needed to make the cut is now $500 million, up from $390 million.
Several fortunes appeared on the radar for the first time. The most well known among them: Purnomo Prawiro. Anyone who has hailed a cab on a busy Jakarta street has probably ridden in one of his Blue Bird taxis. Its long-awaited IPO finally occurred in November, and Prawiro lands on the list at No. 25. The three other newcomers: conglomerate chief Husodo Angkosubroto (No. 23), controversial timber baron Abdul Rasyid (No. 41) and herbal medicine honcho Irwan Hidayat (No. 44).