Swiss Wealthy: Slower, But Still Richer Than Ever

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Earlier this week we reported about a typical Swiss item: the wristwatch. But Switzerland is not only known for its watches, cheese and chocolate, but maybe even more for its wealthy. It’s cities Zurich, Geneva and Bern are famous for its banks and luxury shops. These businesses are likely to have another good year, since the 300 richest persons living in Switzerland are richer than ever. Together they share a wealth of CHF 595 billion (USD 578 billion). On top of the list is the family Kamprad with a wealth of CHF 45 billion (USD 44 billion). Ikea-founder Ingvar Kamprad and his three sons earned an additional CHF 2 billion during the past year.

Combined, the 300 rich and often famous saw their net worth increasing with one percent, which is still an impressive CHF 6 billion. 54 names in the list increased their wealth, while 34 lost some of their fortune. 132 names of the list are billionaire, which is more or less a stable number. There are 1826 billionaires in the world, the most are living in China (213). Giving credit to the cliché, the top 10 doesn’t consist of born Swiss names. For example, the Kamprad-family comes from Sweden and 2 famous Dutch names can be found in the top 10: the family Brenninkmeijer (no. 4, CHF 17 billion) known for clothing retailer C&A and Mrs. Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken (no. 8, CHF 11 billion) from the famous brewery Heineken. Beer is probably the favorite beverage for the happy few. The latest deal between brewers AB InBev and SABMiller helped Brazilian-Swiss Jorge Lemann claiming his no.2 spot (CHF 29 billion) and the deal also gave a decent impulse to shares of Heineken (up 44% this year).

A remarkable newcomer in the top 10 is Patrick Drahi of cable and telecom company Altice. His aggressive financing methods and business approach (ask Cablevision) earned him a net worth of CHF 11 billion (no. 9). His critics may wonder if he can maintain this spot next year, since the aggressive financing of Altice has raised many eyebrows. Shares of Altice are starting to lose ground. A person who knows the pain of a declining share price is Glencore-chief Ivan Glasenberg. He is the top decliner and lost CHF 3.25 billion during the last 12 months. Owner of a large chunk of shares of commodity firm Glencore, he earned a top spot in 2011 when his firm went public, raking up USD 8.2 billion. Sharing the pain are Glencore-managers Daniel Maté and Aris­totelis Mistakidis, who lost both CHF 1.4 billion and are no longer billionaires with a ‘mere’ CHF 800 and 900 million. Russian investor Viktor Vekselberg dropped from the top 10 due to a loss of CHF 3 billion and now has a wealth of ‘only’ CHF 8 billion. Much of his losses are attributed to the crisis in his birth country Russia. The rapid fall of commodity prices hit a lot of names, since the list contains a decent number of commodity traders, large located in the Zug-area.

When looking for a spot in the list, make sure you have at least CHF 100 million. That’s the threshold this year. 12 new names were able to make the list, which were able to bring in a combined wealth of CHF 5.1 billion. One of them is writer Paulo Coelho, known for his bestseller “The Alchemist” which was sold over 70 million times. Newcomer Thomas Gross may be known for his relationship with Paris Hilton. Gross didn’t inherit his wealth but earned his money in the software business.

The rankings are quite volatile, as illustrated by the commodity names. Many names are dependent on the value of certain asset classes. Shares of their companies on the stock market, real estate, commodities etc. can move sharply in a 12 months’ period. Maybe Glasenberg will be back in the top 10 next year if there’s a new bull run in commodities and maybe Drahi will be forgotten in case of a high yield debt crisis. Let’s wait for next year’s list!

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