Troubled tycoon

THE WORLD'S largest exporter of hardwood plywood, Indonesian tycoon Prajogo Pangestu, is having to defend himself against criticism that he has close links with President Suharto. Prajogo has diversified into huge state-subsidised softwood plantations in partnership with Siti Hardijanti Rukmana, Suharto's eldest daughter.

The criticism comes even as Prajogo launches a $295 million public offering of the shares of his company, PT Barito Pacific Timber, the demand for which is predicted to be heavy.

Prajogo says he is "thankful that I know him (Suharto) personally". He, however, denies his commercial ties win him favours, saying his relationship with Rukmana is "mutually profitable business".