What 2019 did to the fortunes of South Africa’s richest people

South Africa’s richest people grew managed to grow their wealth in 2019 – but things were a lot slower for them than their global peers, sending them toppling down the Forbes Billionaire list.

The world briefly had a new richest man this week, after French billionaire Bernard Arnault saw his shares in luxury conglomerate LVMH shoot up, placing him above Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at $109.3 billion.

However short-lived Arnault’s time at the top of the Forbes rankings might be, he remains only the third billionaire to pass $100 billion in wealth, after Bezos and Microsoft founder, Bill Gates.

In the current rankings, Bezos has once again regained his position as the world’s richest man, with a net worth of $111.4 billion, according to Forbes, followed by Gates with 107.9 billion, and Arnault with $107.4 billion.

2019 has been a mixed year for the world’s richest men, with Bezos in particular heading into Christmas around $20 billion poorer than when the official 2019 Forbes ranking was released.

The only other top-10 billionaire to see their fortunes slip over the same period was Mexican telco magnate, Carlos Slim Helu. Even Michael Bloomberg, who has dropped out of the top 10, saw his fortunes grow – just not as much as his peers.

Taking up Bloomberg’s spot on the global top 10 is Indian business magnate Mukesh Ambani, whose stake in Indian group Reliance Industries catapulted him into the top tier of the Forbes ranking in December.

Reliance recently became the most valuable company in India, valued at $140 billion.

Here’s how the global top 10 list looks in December:

Mar# Dec# Billionaire March Net Worth (US$bn) December Net Worth (US$bn) Change (%)
1 1 Jeff Bezos 131.0 111.4 -15.0%
2 2 Bill Gates 96.5 107.9 +11.8%
4 3 Bernard Arnault 76.0 107.4 +41.3%
3 4 Warren Buffet 82.5 89.1 +8.0%
6 5 Amancio Ortega 62.7 75.9 +21.1%
8 6 Mark Zuckerberg 62.3 73.5 +18.0%
7 7 Larry Ellison 62.5 65.3 +4.5%
5 8 Carlos Slim Helu 64.0 62.4 -2.5%
10 9 Larry Page 50.8 61.3 +20.7%
13 10 Mukesh Ambani 50.0 60.6 +21.2%

South African billionaires

The year has also been kinder to South Africa’s billionaires in the Forbes ranking, with Nicky Oppenheimer, Johann Rupert and Michiel le Roux all seeing their wealth grow – while Patrice Motsepe and Koos Bekker’s net worth have remained stable.

This, in a year of economic turmoil, marred by high unemployment, load shedding, low business and consumer confidence, and the ever-present threat of recession and ratings downgrades.

However, despite the growth in wealth, the effect of the aforementioned economic conditions is apparent in the placing of South Africa’s billionaires on the list – where every single one saw their positions drop relative to other billionaires around the world.

Koos Bekker slipped 97 spots on the ranking, followed closely by Motsepe, who slipped 94 places.

While Rupert only moved down three places, South Africa’s richest man, Nicky Oppenheimer saw himself plunge 51 places on the ranking.

This is where South Africa’s billionaires’ fortunes sit at the end of 2019:

Mar# Dec# Billionaire March Net Worth (US$bn) December Net Worth (US$bn) Change (%)
200 251 Nicky Oppenheimer 7.3 7.4 +1.4%
317 320 Johann Rupert 5.5 6.2 +12.7%
962 1056 Patrice Motsepe 2.4 2.4
1008 1105 Koos Bekker 2.3 2.3
1818 1838 Michiel le Roux 1.2 1.3 +8.3%

Read: This is how much money you need to be part of South Africa’s richest 1%

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What 2019 did to the fortunes of South Africa’s richest people