Largest Nitrile Glove Producer in the World
October 14, 2020
Kuan Kam Hon @ Kwan Kam Onn, 73, is the founder of Hartalega Holdings Berhad (Hartalega), currently the largest nitrile glove producer in the world. Chairman Kuan worked in the family’s building and construction business, Kuan Yuen & Sons Company in the early 1970s. Then he left in 1978 to start Timol Weaving Sdn Bhd, one of the pioneers in woven labels and badges. In 1981 he established Hartalega Sdn Bhd. By 1988 Hartalega had four production lines producing rubber gloves in Kepong. Twenty years later, Hartalega Holdings Bhd was listed on Bursa Malaysia and under the stewardship of Chairman Kuan, the company is now the world’s largest producer of nitrile gloves. Forbes ranked Kuan Kam Hon as one of Malaysia’s 50 Richest with a net worth of US$7.7 billion (12 Oct 2020).
Malaysia is a major glove exporter to the world. More than 60% of the world’s imports of gloves are sourced from this country. Hartalega became the number one exporter of nitrile gloves in 2010 when natural rubber price shot up and nitrile gloves became a cheaper alternative. Nitrile gloves are made from synthetic rubber materials and mimics the softness and stretchiness of a natural rubber glove. Its advantage over rubber gloves is that nitrile gloves do not contain latex or latex proteins that cause allergic reactions to some people who have sensitivities to them (EDC). Hartalega has achieved several firsts in its history. In 1995 Hartalega was the first in the world to produce high elasticity nitrile examination glove. In the same year it was the first Malaysian company to develop and implement a robotic glove stripping system which mimics the human hand motion to strip gloves off from the production lines at a record speed of 45,000 pieces of gloves per hour. In 2005 it launched the world’s first 4.7g nitrile glove and two years later when a competitor launched a 4.2g nitrile glove, Hartalega immediately responded with the world’s first 3.7g nitrile glove and subsequently in 2011, it produced the 3.2g soft nitrile glove. In 2017 Hartalega launched world's first non-leaching antimicrobial glove. Today it continues on an expansionary mode. Executive Chairman, Kuan Kam Hon told the press that Hartalega was expanding its capacity by about 20 per cent per annum. Despite that Hartalega is still behind the pace of growth in demand for rubber gloves in developed countries, which has risen by about 120 billion pieces as a result of COVID-19. Hartalega’s current installed capacity is 39.3 billion pieces per annum, with the Group maintaining high utilisation rates of above 85%. Hartalega’s expansion plans are to raise total installed capacity to 95 billion pieces a year.
The company has seen an ascending profit trend since its listing on Bursa Malaysia in 2008. Hartalega has never lost money. It achieved its highest revenue for financial year ending 31 March 2020 at RM2.92 billion and pre-tax profit of RM555.4 million. In view of its solid performance, Hartalega has retained its position as a component stock of the FBM KLCI, an index comprising Malaysia’s top 30 largest public listed companies.
Executive Chairman, Kuan Kam Hon was managing the company as Managing Director till he relinquished his post to his second son, Kuan Mun Leong, in 2012. He has two sons on the top management team, Mun Leong, 44, is the Chief Executive Officer, and eldest son Kuan Mun Keng, 45, is the Chief Commercial Officer. Mun Leong studied engineering at Monash University, Australia and holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Strathclyde, Scotland. So as an engineer, he manages the production side of the business. Mun Leong spearheaded the implementation of the sector’s first oil palm empty fruit bunch fibre fuelled renewable energy plant in 2004 and was instrumental in leading its successful registration with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or Kyoto Protocol. He went on to undertake several glove production capacity expansion projects that were key to Hartalega’s current leading position in manufacturing technology and efficiency. Mun Keng graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business (Accounting) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computing from Monash University, Australia, in 1997. He is also a Certified Practising Accountant with CPA Australia. He heads the commercial side of the family business and currently sits on the Malaysian Rubber Export and Promotion Council (MREPC) Board of Trustees and is the Secretary of the Malaysian Association of Rubber Glove Manufacturers (MARGMA).
Chairman Kuan’s two nephews are also on the senior management of Hartalega. Kuan Eu Jin, 49 is the Chief Operating Officer and Kuan Vin Seung, 46, is the Chief Human Resource Officer. Eu Jin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business (Manufacturing Management) from Monash University and an MBA from the University of Strathclyde Business School, Scotland. Vin Seung holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce (Accounting & Finance) from Monash University, a CPA certification from CPA Australia and an MBA (Merit) from the Manchester Business School, UK.
As at 22 June 2020 the single largest shareholder of Hartalega Holdings Bhd is Hartalega Industries Sdn Bhd with a stake of 47.77%. Kuan Kam Hon@ Kwan Kam Onn and his brother, Kuan Kam Peng are deemed interested in the Hartalega Industries Sdn Bhd stake.
- EDC. Environmental Design + Construction. 1 August 2020. Veronica James. What are nitrile gloves made of? https://www.edcmag.com/what-are-nitrile-gloves-made-of/#:~:text=Nitrile%20gloves%20are%20those%20that%20are%20made%20of,established%20rubber%20gloves%20just%20because%20they%20are%20hypoallergenic.
- I3 Investor.com. Hartalega Holdings Bhd.Annual Report 2020. Analysis of Shareholdings as at 22 June 2020. https://klse.i3investor.com/servlets/staticfile/396269.jsp
- Forbes. Malaysia’s 50 Richest 2020. Kuan Kam Hon. https://www.forbes.com/profile/kuan-kam-hon/#3c9040d26b5f
- Rubber and Plastics News. 28 September 2020. European Rubber Journal Report. Hartalega: Gloves to be in short supply until 2024. https://www.rubbernews.com/latex/hartalega-gloves-be-short-supply-until-2024
- Malay Mail. 15 September 2020. Hartalega: Demand for gloves to outstrip production capacity over next three years. https://www.malaymail.com/news/money/2020/09/15/hartalega-demand-for-gloves-to-outstrip-production-capacity-over-next-three/1903473