MAC: Mines and Communities

London Calling on Richest Brits (not forgetting their Ozzie counterparts)

Published by MAC on 2011-06-07
Source: Nostromo Research (2011-05-30)

Where there's dirt there's filthy lucre

Last month (on 4 May 2011) the UK Sunday Times published its 2011 "Richest Brits" list.

This showed conclusively that the three wealthiest UK residents - and several following closely on their heels - are men who ‘ve acquired the vast majority of their wealth by investing in the minerals industry.

Few readers will need to be introduced to Lakshmi Mittal, who controls the world's largest steel conglomerate, Arcelor-Mittal. His fortune is currently estimated at £17.5 billion.

Roman Abramovich also requires little introduction - at least to fans of London's Chelsea football club which he controls. The Ruissan emigre has stashed away more than £10 billion, mainly through investments in oil and aluminium.

Fewer people are likely aware of Alisher Usmanov (worth more than £12 billion) and the man behind Metalloinvest, the massive Russian metals conglomerate. He too has a significant stake in a British football team, North London's Arsenal.

(Catch up on this trans-located oligarch by reading his entry on the From Money to Metals database: http://moneytometal.org/index.php/Metalloinvest)

The notorious Anil Agarwal of Vedanta Resources secures his position at number 17 on the list (with nearly 3.4 billion quid under his belt).

Hot on this non-resident India's heels comes Vladimir Kim (at 18th) - thanks to Kim's sale of a  39% stake in copper producer, Kazakhmys, to Kazakshtan's sovereign wealth fund in late 2010.

(The deal made Kim nearly half a billion pounds richer than the one truly household name on the list - Virgin's Sir Richard Branson, coming in at number 19).

"Diamond Geezer", South African-born, Nicky Oppenheimer arrives closely after Kim and Branson at number 20 (he's valued at around £2.9 billion).

And Nathaniel ("Nat") Rothschild scrapes into the top 100 at number 70, with a paper value of a billion pounds, gained mainly from last year's floatation of mineral investment fund, Vallar plc.

What's particularly sobering is to realise  that none of the biggest half dozen of these mining profiteers was actually born in the UK. Indeed, several took up residence in our green and pleasant land only in recent years.

Yet their combined wealth  (at just over £50 billion) is more than a quarter of the total £225 billion reckoned by the Sunday Times to be "owned"  by the UK's Top 100 richest men last year.

Down Plunder

In May 2011 Australia's Business Review Weekly (BRW) published its own Rich List of the country's leading hoarders of personal wealth.

Once again, top of the pile are those who've amassed their moolah by mucking around with minerals and running about in mines.

According to BRW, the wealthiest person in Australia is a woman called Gina Rinehart.

That stands in pleasant contrast (one might feel) to the situation prevailing back in the Old Country. For the Sunday Times' UK Rich List doesn't include a single woman in its own Top 50  - other than a few spouses.

However, Ms Rinehart's gains can hardly be described as "earned", even at the longest stretch of the imagination.

Her fortune has been built on what she inherited from her father, the mining magnate, Lang Hancock. And he was a super-alpha male if ever there were (See: http://moneytometal.org/index.php/Gina_Rinehart)

What will surprise many people (not least from the Land of Oz) is that the richest man Down Under is said to be Ivan Glasenberg, Glencore's head honcho.*

According to BRW editor Kate Mills in an interview with ABC on 26 May, Glasenberg is "the highest ever debut that we have ever had coming in at number two and worth $8.8 billion."

How could Glasenberg - born in South Africa and domiciled for years in Switzerland - suddenly have become an Australian?

Ms Mills has the story: "We've known about Ivan for a while but what we didn't know until this year is actually that he is Australian. Ivan Glasenberg was born in South Africa and there was a general assumption he was South African. However while we were doing our research this year, we discovered that when he lived in Australia in the 1990s he took out Australian citizenship".

She adds: "Now that he has become a public company and a massive IPO (sic), you can see how much the company is worth and you can see what his holdings are so that is how we know more about him."

If this is true,  it's one further detail to add to the knowledge (and suspicions) about Glasenberg and Glencore which we didn't have earlier.

* According to the Business Spectator (27 May 2011) "Ivan Glasenberg isn't the only Glencore executive to join the Australian rich list. His right-hand-man, Steven Kalmin, has also rocketed onto the list with a fortune of $560 million. Kalmin, who worked as a commodities trader in Sydney before heading for Switzerland in 2003, was appointed chief financial officer two years ago and now must help Glasenberg help Glencore live up to the pre-float hype".

[London Calling is written by Nostromo Research. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of any other person or publisher. Reproduction is welcome, so long as full acknowledgment is given to the source.]

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