Russia’s super-rich are super-losers in global crisis

Russia’s super-rich are also super-losers in the financial crisis, according to the business magazine Finans, which said on Monday that the top 10 wealthiest Russians lost about two-thirds of their fortunes over the past year.

The magazine’s annual list of Russia’s richest shows them suffering breathtaking losses as the country faces its worst financial crisis in a decade. Oleg Deripaska, who had topped Finans‘s list in the previous two years, fell to eighth place after losing about 85% of his wealth — down to $4,9-billion from $40-billion, Finans estimated.

Mikhail Prokhorov, the playboy metals and banking billionaire who sold his stake in mining company Norilsk Nickel early last year, moved up from seventh place to top the list with a fortune of $14,1-billion, down from $21,5-billion a year ago, the magazine said.

Roman Abramovich, owner of Britain’s Chelsea Football Club and a stake in steelmaker Evraz, held on to second place. But his fortune, estimated last year at $23-billion, has shrunk to $13,9-billion.

Russia’s stock markets lost 70% of their value last year, while the national currency has lost 35% since the summer.

Aggressive geopolitical rhetoric and worsening corporate governance drove many investors away, while plunging prices for oil and metals underscored the fragility of Russia’s eight-year oil-fueled boom.

Deripaska, whose business interests include metals, construction and energy, was forced to cede stakes in Canadian car components maker Magna and German housebuilder Hochtief last year. He previously has objected to the estimates put on his wealth, saying they failed to consider the size of his debts. Deripaska built his fortune up on the back of aggressive borrowings, and his Rusal aluminum company is reported to owe about $17-billion.

Other losers include steel magnates Vladimir Lisin, owner of a majority stake in NLMK, and Alexei Mordashov, owner of Severstal.

Lisin, who clings on to third place, has seen his fortune plunge by 65% to $7,7-billion. Mordashov’s fortune is down 81% to just $4,1-billion.

Finans, which publishes its rich list two months ahead of the better-known US Forbes list of billionaires, said the list had halved from last year, when they counted 101 billionaires. Last year, Forbes confirmed Deripaska as Russia’s richest man. — Sapa-AP

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