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The Chinese Tycoons Start Hunting For Cover

The 28-year reign of Indonesia's President Suharto has been very good for Eka Tjipta Widjaja. The Chinese-Indonesian tycoon runs Sinar Mas Group, a pulp-and-paper conglomerate that has holdings across Asia. Widjaja and other ethnic Chinese executives like him have made their fortunes thanks largely to ties with Suharto's family. Now, with the 73-year-old military strongman up for reelection in three years, the tycoons are worrying about recriminations they might face in a post-Suharto era.

With that in mind, some of the richest families in Asia are turning their closely held empires into publicly traded companies. The goal is to acquire buffers in the form of foreign investors who could deter any future rulers in Jakarta from mischief. With foreigners among the stockholders, future Indonesian governments might think twice before threatening companies.