Business Times Malaysia, 5 July 2004
YTL Corp Bhd, the construction and utility group, wants to be a global company with its customers growing by at least 10 times to 100 million by 2020.
YTL managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh said the group has its own Vision 2020 with a mission to grow 20 per cent compounded by that year, which means the company will be quite huge.
“Do I have a doubt that the company will be huge, like a GE (General Electrics) or a Siemens? Absolutely none,” he said in a recent interview over CNN’s Talk Asia.
Yeoh was quick to point out that YTL’s expansion plans are without limits and boundaries but are only limited by “moral boundaries”, saying he is just a steward of God’s wealth.
And the question of greed also did not arise, he said. “Of course there’s no greed, shouldn’t be greed involved, but from the intellectual capital accumulated and the talents that I’m surrounded with, I am confident that my present people will be able to deliver and hire more people and the YTL family will extend, and our 10 million customer base, I think, will grow to at least 100 million by 2020.”
YTL is involved in infrastructure development, having built some of Malaysia’s biggest projects, power generation, hotel development and management, and supply of water and treatment and disposal of waste water in England through its subsidiary, Wessex Water Services Ltd.
During the interview over the popular talk show programme, Yeoh, the eldest of YTL’s founder Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay’s children, however, spoke modestly about the group despite its record that can only be described as a huge success story.
Among other things, YTL owns high-end hotels and resorts, a stake in the luxury Eastern & Oriental Express connecting Bangkok and Singapore via KTM Bhd’s rail network and the Express Rail Link from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to downtown Kuala Lumpur.
“I don’t think I’m successful yet. I don’t think I’ve reached that level I would say successful yet,” he said, while acknowledging that comparatively, his father and grandfather who built up the family business with very little resources were “more successful than I.”
The 50-year-old Yeoh, who took over the reins of YTL from his father at the age of 24, attributed YTL’s success as a construction company mainly to investing in people as its key assets and the fact that five of the YTL siblings are themselves engineers.
He said his father took him to construction sites since he was only seven years old and for him and his brothers, concrete, steel and other construction materials were “part of their DNA”.
“So we all were very well marinated with all the construction elements around us from very, very young ...”
Yeoh said in some ways, he could also be described as a “politician” with the 10 million customers of YTL’s services as constituents.
As he put it: “I’m also a politician, except that I’ve got 10 million constituents and they vote for me with their feet, and they vote 24 hours a day on my services and products.
“So if my trains don’t run on time, if my power plant has a brownout every other minute, or my water quality goes brown, I’m out of business. I don’t have a five-year luxury to be re-elected.”
Another of YTL’s speciality was building sky-scrapers when high-rise buildings was the trend, especially in Kuala Lumpur.
“We could beat the Japanese behemoths at that time. They were curious and they came to our site and watched us build; how could we be building skyscrapers at seven days a floor; when an average floor was built by them at 21 days.
“But it was very simple. We employed a technology that could allow us to work 24 hours a day. It was called slip forming ... means the concrete goes up one foot every hour. And we could work 24 hours a day. In developed countries, you’re not allowed to,” he said
YTL’s strength is all due to pioneering technologies which took advantage of the culture of working 24 hours a day.
Asked about his legendary love affair with opera where he counts the world famous Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti as one of his closest friends.
Recalling how his friendship with Pavarotti came about, he said he had a young man’s dream of owning a private island and wanting Pavarotti to sing for him.
“So I own this little island called Pangkor Laut. And then in 1994, Pavarotti sang for me, so my two dreams converged. I thank God, it was a very powerful experience. And from then on, we became very good friends,” he said of Pavarotti who has visited Pangkor Laut several times and has described the island as a paradise.
Asked if there was anything more that he wanted to achieve or if there was something missing in his life, he said: “No, I think I have... I enjoy every moment in life now.
“I think to have any semblance or sense of what heaven is, there should be heaven on earth. And this is the thing I’m tasting. I’m tasting the goodness of God, the beautiful operas, islands, seasons, mountains, rivers, flowers, people, and all the greatness of God and people. If heaven on earth is so wonderful, heaven in heaven must be glorious.” — Bernama