KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 — Tan Eng Kee never imagined he would become a billionaire after losing his father at age 13 but was now the country’s latest member of the exclusive club courtesy of his company, Greatech Technology’s listing in 2019.

Forbes reported today Greatech — which produces industrial automation equipment for a variety of different manufacturers — saw its shares jump 330 per cent in the past year, propelling Tan into the billionaires club with a net worth of just over US$1 billion (RM4.04 billion).

“I never had dreams of becoming a billionaire,” he told Forbes.

“I did not expect this at all. I have a simple life — I come to the office; do my job and I go home. Nothing changes because of this,” he told Forbes.

After the death of his father, a taxi driver, Tan started working at 16 at a bakery.

He then earned a certificate in mechanical engineering in 1991, and went on to work as a production planner for a precision tool company. Two years later borrowed RM10,000 from his mother to set up Greatech (M) Sdn Bhd.

In 1995 he enlisted school mate Khor Lean Heng, the company’s current chief operating officer, to join him.

That company went bust in 2001 but the duo then started Greatech Integration to produce semi-automated and automated equipment for the consumer electronics sector. Greatech expanded into the semiconductor industry in 2002 and to the solar sector in 2010.

According to Forbes, sales for the nine months ended September 30, 2020 were up 17 per cent to RM184.78 million while net profit jumped 64 per cent to RM59.338 million.

The company was making huge profits as demand for electric vehicles and solar energy was increasing.

“Renewable energy and electric vehicles are hot now,” said Tan.

Greatech makes automated equipment for production lines for medical device makers to renewable energy producers to semiconductor companies.

Despite the pandemic, Tan told Forbes that all eight of his factories are up and running and the company, of which more than 50 per cent are from abroad, is doing better than ever.

“Our business is getting stronger,” says Tan, who’s gearing up for further growth.

Greatech is set to continue to grow after it expanded its capacity with a newly assembled plant in Batu Kawan while planning to open several offices in Illinois and Arizona in the United States.

Tan is also upbeat on his firm’s prospects.

“We will benefit from the importance being placed on ESG (environmental, social and governance) as companies move toward achieving zero-carbon status,” he was quoted saying by Forbes.