KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 13): After a 10-year wait, Main Market-listed Hiap Teck Venture Bhd, controlled by tycoon Tan Sri David Law Tien Seng, is finally reaping the fruits of its investment in Eastern Steel Sdn Bhd (ESSB), which operates a fully-integrated blast furnace steel plant in Kemaman, Terengganu.
The construction of ESSB’s Kemaman plant started in 2011 before its dry run in 2014, followed by the commencement of production in January 2015.
Unfortunately, in October 2015, ESSB’s operations were suspended to minimise losses due to difficult market conditions at the time, caused by the influx of cheap imports from China that started in 2013.
The breakthrough came in 2018, when Hiap Teck successfully roped in Shanxi Jianlong Industry Co Ltd as a new strategic partner of ESSB.
Shanxi Jianlong, whose parent Beijing Jianlong Heavy Industry Group Co Ltd is a Fortune Global 500 company and one of the top five steel makers in China, acquired a controlling stake of 60% in ESSB and resumed steel production within a short period of half a year.
Notably, Hiap Teck last Monday announced that Shanxi Jianlong had injected cash of 500 million yuan (about RM325.6 million) into ESSB, and therefore raised its stake in the company to 68.8%.
Consequently, Hiap Teck’s shareholding in ESSB was diluted from 35% to 27.3%, while Chinaco Investment Pte Ltd’s stake was cut from 5% to 3.9%.
In an exclusive interview with The Edge, Hiap Teck executive director Law Wai Cheong, who is Tien Seng’s son, said the capital injection by Shanxi Jianlong was very timely as ESSB had gained a strong foothold in the local steel industry and was ready to embark on a RM3 billion expansion, involving a venture into the hot rolled coil (HRC) business.
Wai Cheong also spelled out Tien Seng’s ambitious plans in rebuilding his mining empire in Australia.
To recap, after selling his stake in Australian iron ore miner Midwest Corp Ltd to China’s Sinosteel Corp at the peak of the commodity boom in 2008 — pocketing a whopping profit of A$200 million — Tien Seng returned to Australia by investing in Tungsten Mining NL (TGN) in 2014.
Today, he controls at least three Australian-listed mining companies, namely iron ore miner GWR Group Ltd, tungsten miner TGN and gold miner Western Gold Resources Ltd.
Meanwhile, it has not gone unnoticed that most steel stocks on Bursa Malaysia, which saw their prices peak in May this year, have since retreated from their mid-year highs, some with more than half of their gains erased.
The Edge compares the performance of Hiap Teck against some major steel players including Ann Joo Resources Bhd, Southern Steel Bhd, CSC Steel Holdings Bhd and Leon Fuat Bhd.
Get the full story in the Nov 15 issue of The Edge Malaysia weekly.