For a moment, Lim Wee Chai’s ascent looked unstoppable.
His Top Glove grew bigger than Malaysia’s banks, telecommunication firms and even the state-owned electricity company during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its stock price soared 450 per cent through the first seven months of 2020, leaving high-flyers like Moderna, Zoom Video Communications Peloton Interactive and Carvana in the dust and making Lim a billionaire several times over.
The maker of one out of every four gloves in the world said in September 2020 it expected “fresh highs” after profit surged 1,500 per cent.
By June 2021, as vaccines rolled out across the globe and more competitors entered the market, that guidance shifted to a gradual decline in selling prices. The company vowed six months later to press forward with an expansion, undeterred by its stock tumbling back to pre-COVID-19 levels.
All the while, the value of Lim and his family’s stake in Top Glove slipped: From US$6 billion at its peak in October 2020, to US$4.5 billion four months later, to US$1.6 billion in January.
Then last month came the final blow: A 99 per cent plunge in Top Glove’s profit, enough to put those expansion plans on hold. The results are “almost close to the bottom,” Lim said.
The value of the stake is down to US$1 billion now, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.