SA’s Billionaires Lost $3.4 Billion In Past Two Months
- Posted by Roger Hendricks
- On 01/24/2016
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When Forbes published its annual list of Africa’s 50 Richest people in November 2015, South Africa led the continent with the highest number of billionaires. The nation’s six billionaires were worth a collective $23.35 billion. In the two months since then, the fortunes of these six tycoons dropped combined $3.4 billion—and two of them have lost their status as billionaires.
The falling fortunes of South Africa’s richest people highlight the struggles the nation’s economy is facing in the first month of the year due to the weakness in its currency, the Rand, and falling stock prices. South Africa has been hit hard by China’s economic slowdown. That’s because the Asian nation is South Africa’s largest partner in trade, particularly for natural resources. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange is down 3.13% since the start of 2016, and the Rand is down a whopping 19% against the dollar in that same period.
African Rainbow ARBJY +% Minerals founder Patrice Motsepe and Aspen Pharmacare founder Stephen Saad are no longer billionaires net worth drops of $200 million and $300 million, respectively, since November. Meanwhile, two of South Africa’s richest billionaires— retail investor Christoffel Wiese and luxury goods tycoon Johann Rupert–have each seen their fortunes drop more than $1 billion in the past two months (while remaining in no danger of falling off the Forbes’ Billionaire’s List).
The billionaire least affected by this economic downturn is South Africa’s richest person, Nicky Oppenheimer, because very little of his wealth is tied to the stock market or, as far as we know, the Rand. In 2012, Oppenheimer sold his family’s stake in diamond company DeBeers for $5.1 billion in cash to mining giant Anglo American . Oppenheimer’s one public investment, a small stake in Anglo American, is down 42% since November, but that’s only resulted in a $100 million drop in his net worth, leaving him with an estimated $6.5 billion fortune
For the other five richest South Africans, whose wealth is largely determined by the market, falling stock prices have had a big effect on their fortunes. Motsepe’s fortune is split between financial firm Sanlam down 7.5% since November, and African Rainbow Minerals, which is up 8% since mid-November but down 65% over the past 12 months. He’s now worth an estimated $860 million, after becoming Africa’s first black billionaire in 2009. The bulk of Stephen Saad’s wealth is in pharmaceutical firm Aspen Pharmacare. The stock is down 18% in the past two months, leaving Saad with an estimated $890 million fortune.
The fortune of Naspers chairman Koos Bekker dropped $300 million in the past two months; he remains a billionaire with an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion. One third of his wealth is in media and internet holding company Naspers, whose stock dropped 14% over the past two months.
The bulk of retail billionaire Christo Wiese’s wealth lies in Steinhoff International Holdings. Steinhoff moved its listing from the Johannesburg stock exchange to the Frankfurt stock exchange in December 2015. Steinhoff listed at 5 Euros per share but has since fallen more than 20%, apparently due to an investigation into the company’s taxes by German authorities. A Steinhoff spokesman could not be reached for comment on the investigation.
Johann Rupert, who is chairman of luxury goods company Compagnie Financiere Richemont, is now worth $5.1 billion dollars, down from $6.3 billion in November 2015. Richemont, which is best known for the brands Cartier and Montblanc, said its sales had been strongly impacted by the Paris terror attacks on November 13, 2015, and its stock is down 18% since then.
Of course, billionaires aren’t the only ones affected by this economic downturn. There were 16 South Africans on the list of Africa’s 50 Richest in 2015, worth a combined $28.45 billion at the time. In the past two months, these 16 business leaders have seen their fortunes decrease a combined $5.2 billion.