Home Economy Lakshmi Mittal tops South Africa billionaire list

Lakshmi Mittal tops South Africa billionaire list

By Fakir Hassen, IANS

Johannesburg : London-based steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal has topped the South African billionaires’ list for the third consecutive year.

Mittal’s 27.3 billion rand ($4 billion) listing in the annual Rich List, released here by the weekly Sunday Times, takes into consideration his South African investments only.

The Indian-born businessman has much more interest in steel plants across the world, especially after the recent merger of Mittal Steel and Arcelor.

With the emergence of non-whites’ economic empowerment in a free South Africa, Mittal, along with many South African non-white entrepreneurs, has ousted the two white families who were top of the list for decades in the apartheid era – the diamond magnate Oppenheimer family and the luxury goods Rupert family.

Nicky Oppenheimer was in second place with wealth of 16 billion rand ($2.35 billion) and Patrice Motsepe was third with 13.5 billion rand ($2 billion).

Rich List researchers emphasised the figures were based only on publicly available information of investments on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange, and there may be much more by way of property ownership, cash holdings, offshore investments and other investments.

They also said it was possible that people outside the identifiable business sector, such as international sportsmen, patent holders and owners of listed companies, were excluded from the list, as it was not possible to identify them or their wealth.

The value of Mittal’s 52.02 percent holding in ArcelorMittal SA has almost doubled to 27.36 billion rand ($4 billion).

Mittal’s’ interest in South Africa began several years ago when he turned around the fortunes of the ailing state-owned steel producer Iscor with huge cash injection and a business assistance agreement that saw him net millions.

This success just continued to grow amid rising global steel prices.

Somewhat ironically, there were recently strong rumours that the South African government was considering options to start a competitor to what has now evolved into ArcelorMittal SA from the original Iscor.

Mittal’s takeover has not been without controversy, as the Competitions Commission recently slapped the local subsidiary with a fine of almost 700 million rand ($103 million) after local customers claimed that the company was fixing its prices unfairly.

The only South African Indian in the 100 Richest List is former Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mohammed Valli Moosa, who came in at 71st position with his combined holding of 316 million rand ($42 million) in transport giant Imperial Holdings, insurance giant Sanlam, and leisure group Sun International.