Robert Kuok, the billionaire Malaysian entrepreneur, maybe better known as the man behind the Shangri-La Asia hotel group, but in the commodities world, he is nicknamed the “King of Sugar”.
The 91-year old tycoon and uncle of Wilmar co-founder and chief executive Kuok Khoon Hong, still watches the sugar market daily, and trades the commodity so he can pay for his bottles of Petrus 1989, one of the world’s rarest and most expensive wines.
Mr Kuok rarely gives interviews, but he shared his trading philosophy with Jonathan Kingsman, founder of Kingsman sugar consultancy and occasional Financial Times commentator, for his recently published book The Sugar Casino .
Here are some of his pearls of wisdom:
Always take profits promptly
“Not knowing when to take a profit is the Achilles heel for a trader. Take profits! Don’t wait. If you have a profit you have to take it. If you wait it will be your downfall.”
The sugar market is prone to over supply
“In the sugar market, there is always over production. There is no point hoarding sugar. There is always a bumper crop coming up.”
Don’t be arrogant when trading
“You have to be humble because you are never always right. You don’t need to convince anyone. You can trade as a very humble man.”
You’re either a trader or you’re not
“Traders are born, not taught.”
Cut your losses and walk away if someone abuses your trust
“If you want, you can keep that person as a friend but do so at arm’s length; no more business dealings. But it is better to just cut the cord and part company. If you bear a grudge you are just hurting yourself; you are not hurting the other person. It is like throwing good money after bad. Keep your wits, keep your humour and if you are a good man, luck will come your way again. You will see another opportunity and you will grasp it.”
Always adhere to moral practices
“If someone asks you for a bribe you should say that neither you nor your company could do that. But stay polite. Don’t stand on your high horse and preach morality at that moment.”
There is nothing that can’t be traded
“I have a simple motto in life: every single material thing that I have in life can be traded. It is for sale. It is a question of, when, where, to whom and price. The first three are more important. If you like a person the price becomes unimportant.”