Berjaya Group Bhd. History
Telephone: 60 3 2935 8888
Fax: 60 3 2935 8043
Sales: MYR 7.7 billion ($1.9 billion) (2003)
Stock Exchanges: Kuala Lumpur
NAIC: 551112 Offices of Other Holding Companies; 517212 Cellular and Other Wireless Telecommunications; 622110 General Medical and Surgical Hospitals; 713990 All Other Amusement and Recreation Industries; 721110 Hotels (Except Casino Hotels) and Motels
Mission: To generate consistently profitable returns for our shareholders from investments in core business activities: by providing direction, financial resources and management support for each operating unit; through establishing a major market presence of each activity; through dynamic and innovative management, teamwork and a commitment to excellence.
- Vincent Tan gains a franchise to open McDonald's restaurants in Malaysia.
- The Malaysian government privatizes Sports Toto, the state lottery, and sells 70 percent to Tan.
- Tan acquires full control of Sports Toto, and launches a new holding company, Berjaya Group.
- The company acquires Unza Malaysia and Manufacturing Services Sendirian Berhard (MSSB), establishing personal care products and other consumer products sales.
- The company acquires Roasters Grill Inc. in the United States.
- The company acquires Dunham-Bush, manufacturer of refrigeration and air conditioning systems.
- Tan launches construction of the Berjaya Times Square complex; the company joins in the launch of the Mutiara Swisscom mobile telephone service (later DiGi).
- The company acquires the Malaysian franchise for the Starbucks coffee shop operations.
- Berjaya restructures, and takes over 24 percent of DiGi.
- Berjaya acquires the Hyundai concession in Malaysia.
- Berjaya acquires 70 percent of organic food stores Country Farms; Tan joins in the launch of MiTV pay-television service.
Berjaya Group Bhd. is a major Malaysian conglomerate with holdings ranging from lottery and casino operations; hotel, resort development, and time-share development and management; mobile telephone services, through its holding in DiGi, the country's third largest; food and beverages, notably through its McDonald's, Starbucks, Roasters, 7-Eleven, and other franchises; motor vehicle sales through its Hyundai-Berjaya joint venture; the distribution of consumer goods and brands, including Cosway, Singer, and others; and the manufacturing and distribution of air conditioning, refrigeration, and related systems through subsidiary Dunham-Bush Malaysia, among others. The company is also a major real estate developer in Malaysia--the company's most recently completed project is the massive Berjaya Times Square complex, which, at more than 675,000 square meters of retail, entertainment, and leisure space, is the largest in the Asia Pacific region. Like many Asian conglomerates, Berjaya reflects the work of a single person--in Berjaya's case, the company's fortunes have been developed by Tan Sri Dato' Seri Vincent Tan Chee, who transformed the company from a tiny insurance agency to one of Malaysia's most powerful financial groups. In addition to his own dealings within the Berjaya Group, Tan also has a range of personal investments, such as his backing of Malaysia's second pay-TV service, MiTV, launched in October 2004. Berjaya Group is listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. In 2003, the company posted revenues of MYR 7.7 billion ($1.9 billion).
Deserving a Break in the 1980s
Vincent Tan left school at the age of 16 and began his career as a bank clerk. Yet Tan quickly displayed an ambitious nature, and by the end of the 1960s had launched a second career selling insurance in the evenings. Tan's ability as a salesman soon won him a job as an agency supervisor for American International Insurance when he was just 21 years old.
Toward the end of the 1970s, Tan decided to go into business on his own, founding what was to become one of Malaysia's--and the Asian Pacific region's--wealthiest business empires. Tan's initial business foray kept him close to the insurance industry. In the late 1970s, Tan set up a joint venture with Tokyo Marine & Fire Insurance.
Insurance proved only a means to an end, however. In 1981, Tan scored another noteworthy business victory when he won the franchise to bring McDonald's fast food restaurants into Malaysia. By mid-decade, Tan had emerged as one of the country's fastest-rising entrepreneurs. Part of Tan's success came through building a strong relationship with the government, particularly with longtime leader Mahathir Maohamad. Although this relationship raised questions at times, Tan acknowledged the importance of his link with Mahathir. As he told Fortune: "It's only prudent for a businessman to be friendly with the government of the day, but I'm not into politics and our companies are well run."
The next phase in the development of the future Berjaya business empire came in 1985, when Tan convinced the Malaysian government to privatize the state-run Sports Toto lottery and turn over its operation to Berjaya. The government agreed, and Berjaya bought up 70 percent of the lottery, which had been founded in 1969 in order to raise funds for sports programs and other cultural activities. Sports Toto was listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange in 1987. In 1990, however, a restructuring of the lottery and gaming business gave Tan full control of that operation. Sports Toto was then placed into one of many Berjaya holding companies, Berjaya Land Berhad. At the same time, Tan and Berjaya were able to acquire a number of other Malaysian real estate and leisure activities. By the mid-1990s, Berjaya had emerged as a strong player in the country's hotel and resort vacation industry, with holdings including the Bukit Tinggi Resort complex.
During this time, Tan made use of the strong cash flow from Sports Toto to begin building a diversified, and ever changing, conglomerate. The company entered a wide variety of industries, with holdings ranging from manufacturing to advertising to distribution and restaurants. An example of this effort was the company acquisition of a 48 percent stake in the Singer Sewing Machine Company's (SSMC) Malaysian subsidiary, acquired in 1985. Berjaya, which did not wish to limit itself to the Asian Pacific region, next targeted SSMC itself, launching a takeover bid for the well-known U.S. company. Although that bid failed, Berjaya was able to gain majority control of the Singer Malaysia operations. That stake was later placed under the holding company Cosway, established in 1998 as Berjaya's manufacturing and distribution arm.
Malaysian Tycoon in the 1990s
Cosway became one of Berjaya's main operating subsidiaries. In addition to the Singer business, Cosway developed its own "network-marketing" sales model, based on a multilevel sales model similar to that of Tupperware, Avon, and others. The company became a major Malaysian distributor of cosmetics, toiletries, and fashion jewelry, among other products. Cosway also distributed durable consumer goods, and by the beginning of the 2000s had expanded to include the distribution of audiovisual products, both in the retail and rental markets, including films and children's educational products.
The Cosway holding was further expanded in 1992 with the purchase of the Unza Malaysia and Manufacturing Services Sendirian Berhard (MSSB), both manufacturers of personal care and household products, with a combined presence in more than 20 countries, including subsidiaries in Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and China, and manufacturing operations in China and Vietnam. These operations, expanded with the purchase of Unza International Limited in 2000, were then placed on the Kuala Lumpur Main Board in 2000. The following year, Unza acquired two more companies, Gervas Corporation Sdn. Bhd. and Formapac Sdn. Bhd., the latter a contract manufacturer for the former's line of personal care products.
Cosway also branched out its manufacturing side, acquiring Dunham-Bush Malaysia. Originally set up in 1984, Dunham-Bush specialized in the production of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, marketed under brand names including Dunham-Bush, Anemostat, Polacel, Topaire, and DataAire. Dunham-Bush was taken public in 1994, although majority control rested firmly with Berjaya Group.
Meanwhile, Tan returned to the restaurant sector in the early 1990s. In 1993, Tan bought up the Roadhouse Grill restaurant concept, promoted by country singer Kenny Rogers, and began opening restaurants in the United States. That operation quickly spread, with company-owned restaurants in 11 states and franchise stores added in Brazil, Italy, and Malaysia. The company had similar success with the acquisition of the 7-Eleven convenience store franchise for the Malaysian market. By the 2000s, the company had opened nearly 220 7-Eleven stores in Malaysia.
By the mid-1990s, Tan had emerged as one of the most ambitious and most successful of Malaysia's growing class of business tycoons. In 1995, Tan launched a new project in order to highlight his and Berjaya's success in building a wide range of successful businesses. That project called for the construction of a massive shopping, entertainment, and leisure center, named Berjaya Times Square, in Kuala Lumpur.
Work began on the structure that year. The complex at completion was to include more than 900 stores, as well as an amusement park, hotel rooms, and other leisure and entertainment amenities. Covering more than 675,000 square meters, the complex became the largest in the Asian region, and one of the largest such sites in the world.
Progress on the complex was slowed by the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s, and the corresponding property slump, which was then exacerbated by uncertainty following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Nonetheless, Tan pushed through with the project--which originally remained a personal project and not included within the Berjaya Group's financial structure--and the doors opened at the Times Square Complex in October 2003.
Restructured for the New Century
Yet the difficult economic climate at the beginning of the 2000s, coupled with Berjaya's soaring debt levels, forced Tan to lead the company through an extensive restructuring effort. The restructuring essentially created a "new" Berjaya Group, transferring most of the former company's assets into the new vehicle. Investors in the "old" Berjaya were then given one share in the new company for every four shares they had previously held. Tan sweetened the deal by adding a number of his personal assets, such as part of the Times Square development.
Another key asset added to the Berjaya group was 24 percent of Tan's 33 percent of mobile telephone service operator DiGi. That company had originally been established as Mutiara Swisscom in 1995, and was the first in the country to offer a fully digital phone service. Joining Tan in setting up the company was partner Telenor, of Norway, which also took 33 percent of the company. Mutiara placed its stock on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange in 1997, then changed its name to DiGi in 2000. By the dawn of the 21st century it had developed into Malaysia's third largest mobile phone operator, and number one in pre-paid services sales.
Tan and Berjaya continued to look for new expansion opportunities into the next decade. In 1998, the company expanded its restaurant offerings with the acquisition of the Malaysian license for the Starbucks coffee shop franchise. Through subsidiary Berjaya Coffee Company, Berjaya opened its first Starbucks in 1998 and had ten stores in operation by 2002. In October 2001, the company, through another of its holding companies, Matrix International, acquired Nature Avenue Sdn. Bhd., which operated the Special Cash Sweep Number Forecast Lotteries in Sarawak.
Berjaya entered the automotive market in 2003, buying up Hyundai-Berjaya Sdn. Bhd. That business provided oversight for a network of some 80 dealers selling Hyundai-branded cars and other vehicles in Malaysia. By 2004, however, Berjaya had begun reducing its stake in the Hyundai franchise. The company also sold off a number of other holdings, including the Unza Holdings group and another subsidiary, Taiga Forest Products Bhd.
Instead, Berjaya and Tan were looking in new directions. One of these came in September 2004, when the company bought a 70 percent stake in Country Farms Sdn. Bhd. That company operated two organic food stores in Malaysia. At the same time Tan continued to build on his personal holdings. In July 2004, Tan moved to acquire more than 28 percent of Informatics Holdings, in an effort to gain control of the educational products provider. That effort brought Tan head to head with another Malaysian business tycoon, Oie Hong Leong. Meanwhile, Tan had joined a group of investors preparing the launch of a pay-TV service, MiTV, in October 2004. Tan, and Berjaya, had become firm fixtures at the top of Malaysia's business community in the new century.
Principal Subsidiaries: Berjaya Land Berhad; Berjaya Capital Berhad; Berjaya Sports Toto Berhad; Cosway Corporation Berhad; Dunham-Bush (Malaysia) Bhd.; Matrix International Berhad; Hyundai-Berjaya Corporation.
Principal Competitors: CCL Industries Inc.; New World Development Company Limited; Sime Darby Berhad.
- Ahmad, Baidura, "Another Feather in Berjaya's Cap," New Straits Time, October 2, 2003.
- "Berjaya Incurs RM27.5m Q1 Loss," Business Times (Malaysia), October 1, 2004.
- "Berjaya's Vincent Tan in Battle Royale for Informatics," Bernama, July 5, 2004.
- "Berjaya Ventures into Food Distribution," Business Times, September 8, 2004.
- Kraar, Louis, "Dedicated to Their Work," Fortune, Fall 1990, p. 81.
- Ranawana, Arjuna, "Restructuring or Reshuffling?," Asiaweek, June 22, 2001.
- "Tycoon to Launch Malaysia's Second Pay-TV Service in October," Catcha News, June 17, 2004.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol.67. St. James Press, 2005.