World’s 400 richest lose $194bn in turbulent week

New York. – The world’s 400 richest people lost almost $194 billion last week as stock markets began the year with a shudder on poor data in China and falling oil prices.

Forty-seven billionaires lost $1 billion or more during the worst week for US stocks since 2011, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index.

The 400 people on the index had a combined $3,7 trillion at the end of the week, compared with more than $4 trillion a year ago.

The Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 index tumbled 6 percent last week, the biggest drop since September 2011 and the steepest slide over five days to begin a year on record.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, the best-performing billionaire last year, lost the most.

His fortune dropped $5,9 billion last week as shares of the world’s largest online retailer fell more than 10 percent.

Mr Bezos is the world’s fourth-richest person with $53,7 billion.

He more than doubled his net worth last year as investors cheered profits at Amazon.

The net worth of the world’s richest person, Bill Gates, fell $4,5 billon to $79,2 billion, while Spain’s Amancio Ortega, the second-richest, fell $3,4 billion to $69,5 billion.

For the four South Africans on the index, it was also a gloomy start to the year.

Nathan Kirsh, the highest-ranking local on the list, saw his fortune as measured by the index fall 4,7 percent, or $297 million, so far this year to $6 billion. The food retailer, who was born in Potchefstroom in 1932, ranks 202 on the Bloomberg index.

Nicky Oppenheimer, whose family was for nearly a century associated with diamonds through De Beers, and Anglo American, saw his net worth slide 4 percent, or $252 million, to $5,9 billion.

The Oppenheimer family decided in 2012 to sell its 40 percent stake in De Beers to Anglo American for $5,2 billion.

Mr Oppenheimer is the second-highest ranking South African on the Bloomberg index and number 206 overall.

Johann Rupert, the chairman of luxury goods company Richemont, the world’s largest jewellery maker, experienced a 7,6 percent, or $472 million, fall in his net worth to $5,8 billion.

Mr Rupert is also chairman of JSE-listed Remgro, an investment company with more than 30 investments across a wide range of industries.

Christo Wiese, the number four South African on the Bloomberg index, had a 12 percent, or $749 million, tumble in his net worth to $5,6 billion.

He was named Sunday Times Business Leader of the Year last year.

He sold his 57 percent stake in fashion retailer Pepkor to Steinhoff International for $5,7 billion last year.

He gained a 17 percent stake in Steinhoff. He is chairman of Shoprite, the JSE-listed retailer in which he owns a 15 percent stake.

US stocks capped the worst week since September 2011 and crude oil tumbled to a 12-year low as the effects of China’s attempts to shore up its financial markets faded.

The S&P 500 index extended losses in the final hour of trading on Friday, with financial and health-care companies leading declines.

Energy shares in the gauge have fallen to the lowest level in more than five years, as oil resumed its slump to fall less than $33 a barrel.

Global equities slid by the most in more than four years, even as Chinese authorities moved to stabilise the yuan and quell turmoil in financial markets.

Volatility in Chinese markets spurred a global sell-off in riskier assets as concern deepened over the ruling Communist Party of China’s ability to manage an economic slowdown.

US payroll growth surged last month, capping the second-best year for US workers since 1999.

While it was further evidence of the resilient job market that prompted the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates last year, wages grew more slowly than forecast, adding to disinflation concerns stoked by plunging commodities prices.

“There will remain some jitters about China until they get through a week or more without having a precipitous drop,” said Peter Jankovskis, the co-chief investment officer of OakBrook Investments in the US.

“Given what’s going on in China right now, the market is looking for economic growth and evidence that there’s strength in the US economy.

“We’re still walking on egg shells, but this is definitely going to help turn a corner.” – Bloomberg.

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