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For Indonesian billionaire, flashy car takes a back seat to 20-hour days


DON'T be fooled by the Ferrari. It's nothing more than an occasional indulgence for Donald Sihombing, who two decades ago built what was then South-east Asia's biggest shopping mall.

He sometimes devotes as much as 20 hours a day to his PT Totalindo Eka Persada, the Indonesian company behind Bali resorts and other luxury properties like the Jakarta Four Seasons.

The stock has surged more than 1,200 per cent since going public last June, beating all but two of the Jakarta Composite Index's 572 members. Mr Sihombing, 61, owns most of the company directly and through a holding company, giving him a US$1.5 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The firm is known for some of the most lavish buildings in Indonesia, including Jakarta's Capital Place development, which houses the Four Seasons, as well as the Mulia Hotel in Bali.

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Totalindo, buoyed by steadily rising revenue and profit, "has secured good new contracts from the government compared to its peers", said Ike Widiawati, an analyst at PT Oso Securities in Jakarta.

But the newly minted billionaire with the Ferrari 458 Spider demurs when asked to comment about his net worth, asking instead that the spotlight be reserved for his 2,000 workers.

"My dream will be fulfilled if I can ensure the prosperity of my employees," he said in an interview. "I don't want anything more."

Mr Sihombing, who wears a US$145 Citizen watch and usually drives a five-year-old BMW 5 series, said his wife asked that he buy the Ferrari, which he takes for a spin once every three months.

That satisfies his earlier passion for race cars, before he could afford one. He's now focusing his company on more modest residential projects as the government builds more homes for low-income workers amid a shortfall in affordable housing. It aims to raise revenue from such developments to 30 per cent of sales by this year and 50 per cent by 2020, Bahana Sekuritas said in a December report. Mr Sihombing said he's seeking a 50-50 balance between government and private projects to alleviate the fluctuations in high-end properties, which are linked to the fortunes of the global economy. BLOOMBERG