Yap has ties to two of Asia's leading tycoons, Salim and Kuok

by Teresa Acklin
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   Piet Yap, head of Bogasari Flour Mills, is known through the global grain-based foods industry as a fiercely independent executive, wise in the ways of the world and the industry, and phenomenally successful not just in building what ranks as one of the world's largest flour milling businesses, but also in the broad diversity of his personal interests.

   Having just reached the age of 65, Mr. Yap shows no sign of slowing down at what many regard as the age for retirement. Instead, Mr. Yap delights in telling visitors, as he recently did in his office in Jakarta, how Bogasari is continuing to grow “in leaps and bounds,” as well as details of his latest personal investment in a portfolio of businesses and properties that seem to match the dimensions of Bogasari itself.

   In any conversation with Mr. Yap that delves into his amazing career, it becomes apparent that his relationships with two of the most powerful businessmen in Indo-China, Soedono Salim of Indonesia and Robert Kuok Hock Nien of Hong Kong, have had a large role in the position of Mr. Yap himself.

   Mr. Salim, also known as Liem Sioe Liong, is the head of the Salim Group, of which Bogasari is a part through its ownership by Indofood Sukses Makmur, a publicly quoted company that in turn is controlled by Salim interests. Both Mr. Salim and Mr. Kuok are usually described as “tycoons” when their names appear in the popular media.

   Mr. Yap, a native of western Sumatra in Indonesia, describes himself as being “born a sugar trader.” He went to Singapore at the start of his career and began working with Mr. Kuok's organization, expanding in the 1950s and 1960s into rice trading as well as sugar, even as the latter grew to include the operation of plantations.

   He recalled that in 1968, when the idea of building a flour mill in Indonesia first surfaced, he and Mr. Kuok, because of their overall experience in the food industry and in trading, were invited by Mr. Salim to join the Kuok organization in building the country's first mill. This offer was accepted, and Mr. Yap was placed in charge of a company whose name in Indonesian means boga for food and sari for cream.

   Construction on the first milling unit at the Jakarta site, with 650 tonnes of capacity (the plant soon will have 10,000 tonnes of daily wheat grinding capacity), began in 1969 and operations started in 1971.

   Mr. Kuok no longer plays an active role in Bogasari, although he's still a shareholder. At the same time, Mr. Yap continues his involvement with the Kuok interest. He is a senior director and shareholder in Kerry Holdings, Ltd., which is the central corporation for Mr. Kuok's extensive interests in commodity trading, hotels (the group owns the Shangri-La hotel chain of which Mr. Yap is a strong advocate); sugar plantations, mills and refineries; shipping, food and beverage making; media; and property development. Kerry and the Kuoks are also involved extensively in flour milling in Malaysia, Thailand and mainland China.

   So far as his personal interests are concerned, Mr. Yap recently described two of many. In integrated wood production, he sees himself as the same sort of pioneer as he is in flour milling. In 1987, he obtained a forest concession covering 1 million hectares of forest land in Irian Jaya, Indonesia's most eastern province.

   A factory and headquarters for this business were built on the nearby island of Biak. Almost all of the lumber and plywood produced by this plant moves for export, Mr. Yap said.

   Gold deposits have been discovered in the area of Irian Jaya where Mr. Yap has his forest concession, and an extensive mining development program is now under way, partly as a result of ventures entered into with some of the world's leading mining enterprises. “Gold is a big business, better than milling,” Mr. Yap said with a smile.

   Mr. Yap's family is involved in the operation of these diverse enterprises, real estate development and other businesses. For instance, his daughter, known as Wendy, has the Wendy's fast-food franchise for Indonesia.