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GCC billionaires’ net worth up by 25% at $121.1bn

By Parag Deulgaonkar



The collective net wealth of billionaires in the Gulf Co-operation Council states increased by 25 per cent to $121.1 billion (Dh444.74bn) from $96.7bn in 2007.

The UAE is the only country in the GCC that has seen two new names being added to the list of billionaires, taking the tally to six. The total combined net worth jumped by 35 per cent to $21.7bn from $16bn, according to calculations done by Emirates Business from the Forbes magazine’s annual list of billionaires worldwide.

Saudi Arabia topped the list of GCC countries with 13 billionaires with the combined wealth soaring to $77.7bn from $64.6bn.

Kuwait continued to have four billionaires as collective wealth rose to $21.7bn compared to $16.1bn last year.


UAE Billionaires

Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair (pictured above) and family led the list of billionaires from the UAE. Although he is ranked 100th in the world, down 14 places compared to last year, his net worth increased by 11 per cent to $8.9bn from $8bn in 2007.

Second on the list from the UAE is Majid Al Futtaim, whose wealth has increased to $3bn from $2.5bn. He is ranked 368th by Forbes.

Saif Al Ghurair and family is a newcomer to the list, ranked 412, with a net worth of $2.8bn.

Al Habtoor Group Chairman Khalaf Al Habtoor has maintained a net worth of $2.5bn, while Micky Jagtiani, another new entrant, is reported to have a wealth of $2.5bn. Both of them are ranked 462.

Net worth of Abdulla Al Futtaim, according to Forbes, is down from $3bn to $2bn this year. He is now ranked 605 compared to 287 in 2007.

“We don’t know how they arrived at this figure, because our companies are private firms – this is just their assumption,” Khalaf Al Habtoor told Emirates Business.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, who tops the billionaire list from Saudi Arabia, has seen a marginal increase in his wealth this year. His net worth has risen to $21bn from $20.3bn, but his rank has slipped from 13 to 19.

The magazine terms him as the most active and successful investor in the Middle East. He made his investment vehicle, Kingdom Holding, public on the Saudi stock exchange in July 2007. Kingdom Holding contains his investments in well-known companies such as Citigroup and News Corp, as well as Four Seasons Hotels and Fairmont Hotel management companies, among many others.


Buffett Tops

Overall, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett bagged the top spot, replacing Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates who has held the number one position for the past 13 years. Buffett’s wealth grew $10bn to about $62bn in the 12 months through February 11, mostly due to a gain in his company’s shares, Forbes said in a statement.

The fortune of Gates, 52, rose $2bn to $58bn.

The Microsoft chairman fell to third on the list behind Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim Helu, 68, who has an estimated net worth of $60bn.

The Forbes list shows wealth expanding in emerging markets around the globe, with Russia overtaking Germany as the second- richest country, and 70 per cent of newcomers from Russia, India, China and the United States. In 2006, half of the top 20 billionaires came from the US. This year there were only four Americans.
The son of Lebanese immigrants to Mexico, Helu amassed his fortune building Latin America’s largest telecommunication carriers, Forbes said.

Indian steel entrepreneur Lakshmi Mittal was fourth, and one of four Indians in the top 10.

Mukesh and Anil Ambani, whose father founded the Reliance group of companies, were fifth and sixth on the list, and Kushal Pal Singh, who heads giant property developer DLF Limited, moved up 54 spots to eighth ranking with $30bn.

Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad was seventh with $31bn, making him the list’s top European, while Russia’s richest man, Oleg Deripaska, was ninth with $28bn. Retired German supermarket mogul Karl Albrecht was 10th with $27bn.


New Billionaires

In total, this year’s list sees 1,125 people around the world making it to the list of billionaires, up from 946 last year. Their total net worth stands at $4.4 trillion, an increase of $3.5trn in 2007. There were 469 billionaires in the US, worth a combined $1.6trn, while the 656 billionaires who live outside the US are worth $2.8trn.

The average worth of a list member is $3.9bn, or about $250 million more than last year. The top 20 members are worth at least $20.8bn each, an increase of $3.3bn.

The Forbes list also demonstrated the growing wealth of younger billionaires, with 50 members under the age of 40, 68 per cent of whom were self-made.

The average age dropped to 61, helped by Russia, where the average of billionaires is 46, and China, where the average age is 48, the magazine said.

China’s richest person is 26-year-old Yang Huiyan. She is the owner of property firm Country Garden Holdings, listed at 125 with $7.4bn.

The youngest member on the list was Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, 23, at 785 with $1.5bn, the youngest self-made billionaire ever to make a Forbes list.

The world’s richest woman, France’s Liliane Bettencourt, the daughter of the founder of the L’Oreal SA cosmetics company, was 17th, with $22bn. The average net worth of women on the list was $3.7bn.


The UAE’s Top Six


Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair & family Ranking 100

Net worth $8.9 billion (Dh32.6bn) He is the CEO of Mashreq. The bank celebrated its 40th anniversary last year and recently announced plans to expand into Egypt. The family’s diverse business interests include investments in cement and petrochemicals. Their foods division operates one of the largest flour mills in the Middle East.


Majid Al Futtaim Ranking 368 Net worth $3bn

He brought snow skiing to the Dubai desert and continues to expand his dominant retail brand MAF Holding. Al Futtaim has mega-malls under construction across the Middle East including in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The firm’s joint venture with Carrefour witnessed $1.9bn in sales in 2006.


Saif Al Ghurair & family Ranking 412 Net worth $2.8bn

The group businesses include some of Dubai’s swankiest malls. The region’s strong market for retailing has helped fuel growth. The family’s steel unit broke ground on a new plant in Abu Dhabi recently. Saif has five sons who are all involved in the business.


Khalaf Al Habtoor Ranking 462 Net worth $2.5bn

Al Habtoor made worldwide news in September when his group sold 45 per cent of its engineering division to Australia’s Leighton Holdings for $707 million. The group’s automotive unit is the exclusive agent in the UAE for Aston Martin, Bentley and Mitsubishi.


Micky Jagtiani Ranking 462 Net worth $2.5bn

Founder and Chairman of Dubai’s Landmark Group, Jagtiani is a retailer with more than 600 stores and 10 original brands of apparel, home furnishings and electronics. He drove a taxi in London before moving to Bahrain and starting a shop in 1973.


Abdulla Al Futtaim Ranking 605 Net worth $2bn

He has built his own conglomerate centered around autos and retail and is the exclusive distributor for brands such as IBM, Ikea and Toyota. He also played a lead role in the construction of Dubai Festival City to be finished in 2015 at an estimated cost of $15bn.