Royal Golden Eagle is one of the top integrated, resource-based, industrial groups in the Asia Pacific region today; and it all started with, Sukanto Tanoto, the man behind its 50-year-long history and $20 billion empire.
The eldest of seven brothers, Sukanto Tanoto was born in Medan, North Sumatra. His father was an immigrant from Putian, a city located in China’s Fujian Province. Education for young Tanoto was hard to come by. In 1966, President Suharto’s regime forced Chinese schools to shut down. Tanoto was even banned from attending a national school due to his Chinese roots.
Though he went on to become a successful, self-taught entrepreneur, Sukanto Tanoto still regretted missing out on his early education. Eventually, he enrolled in a business school in Jakarta in the mid-1970s.
Tanoto’s start in business, however, came much earlier. In 1967, he founded his first business, supplying spare parts to Indonesia’s oil and construction industries. Just half a decade later, he was winning contracts for building gas pipelines for multinationals.
A year later, following the 1973 oil crisis, he shifted his attention to plywood. Developing his own plywood mill, however, required a permit from the Suharto regime. As the politicians who issued these permits frequently served as army generals, Tanoto himself was compelled to work with one such general and pitch the mill’s potential as a value-add to the local economy and generator of new jobs. The general was impressed by the idea, and Tanoto’s plywood mill was inaugurated by Suharto himself, and operations commenced in 1975.
Riding on the success of his plywood business, Tanoto later branched out into other industries such as paper, palm oil, and pulp.
Royal Golden Eagle
Initially known as ‘Raja Garuda Mas’, the Royal Golden Eagle was founded by Tanoto in 1973 to manufacture plywood panels. Critically, it also marked Indonesia’s transition from a supplier of raw materials to a value-added processor.
From the time it was launched, the company was set on a trajectory of continuous development and expansion. Today, RGE is the main representative of Sukanto Tanoto’s business interests and the parent company of other businesses founded by him. As a whole, RGE currently employs a staggering 60,000 people and possesses $20 billion worth of assets.
From its headquarters in Singapore, RGE operates in four main business sectors:
- Energy resource development
- Dissolving wood pulp and viscose staple fibre
- Pulp and paper
Pacific Oil & Gas
Pacific Oil & Gas is an independent multinational energy development company with operations in Canada, China, and Indonesia. It is primarily focused on satisfying the need for cleaner energy for developing economies in the Asian region.
Founded in 1979, Asian Agri is among the largest palm oil producers in all of Asia. It annually produces an estimated 1 million tons of crude palm oil from its 28 palm oil plantations, spanning 160,000 hectares. The company currently provides work for around 25,000 employees.
Apical Group Limited
Another giant in palm oil production, the Apical Group consists of 10 processing facilities globally and produces an overall annual capacity of over 7.5 million metric tons. Three of its facilities are biodiesel plants, producing an annual capacity of almost 972,500 metric tons combined. Meanwhile, the company’s only kernel crushing plant can produce 340,000 metric tons, annually.
Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (April)
With pulp production capacity of 2.8 million tons and fine paper production capacity of 820,000 tons per annum, APRIL is one of the world’s largest pulp and paper mills. Operating out of the Riau Province in Indonesia, this pulp and paper giant indirectly employs over 90,000 locals and contributed to nearly 7% of the economic output of the entire province as of 2009.
Established in Brazil in 2003, Bracell is currently a leading company in dissolving pulp and specialty cellulose. Supported by its highly advanced factories and sustainable cultivation of eucalyptus, the company manages over 234,000 hectares of land, of which 83,000 hectares are dedicated to environmental preservation. With the employment of nearly 7,000 people in two separate states, Bracell achieves an annual production capacity of 750,000 tons of pulp a year.
Sateri is the leading global manufacturer of viscose rayon. Much of its rich and natural fibre is present in skin-friendly hygiene products and comfortable textiles.
Sateri manages four viscose mills, churning out a combined output of 1.1 million metric tons per year. All this production, however, is done without hindering Sateri’s commitment to sustainable practices and protecting the environment. The Sateri mills incorporate European technology to produce viscose purely from dissolving wood pulp to uphold their quality and standard.
Asia Pacific Rayon (APR)
APR has the distinction of being Asia’s first fully integrated producer of viscose rayon. With an annual capacity of just 240,000 tonnes from a single mill located in Pangkalan Kerinci, it is dedicated to sustainable practices and the production of high quality, biodegradable viscose rayon. All of its wood fibre is sourced from sustainably managed plantations, thereby upholding its internal policy of ‘No Deforestation’.
Asia Symbol is another pulp and paper manufacturer and one of the more recent companies to be part of the RGE group. Established in the Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Shandong in 2005, Asia Symbol pumped out an annual production capacity of 450,000 tons of fine paper, 520,000 tons of paper board, and 1.5 million tons of pulp.
In fact, its plant in Shandong houses the single largest pulp production line found anywhere in the world, complete with environmentally friendly practices and advanced manufacturing technology.
The Tanoto Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Tanoto family, and the only one of Sukanto Tanoto’s organisations that operates outside of the RGE group. It was co-founded by Tanoto and his wife, Tinah Bingei Tanoto, in 1981.
The foundation is primarily focused on improving access to education and knowledge, something Tanoto himself struggled to gain as a youngster. As of 2018, the Tanoto Foundation has provided some 20,000 scholarships and improved the overall quality of schooling in Indonesia. It has also provided funding to important medical research into diseases that are prevalent throughout Asia.