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Buddy, can you spare a billion? SA's Elon Musk becomes world's third-richest man

18 November 2020 - 08:28 By dave chambers
Pretoria-born Elon Musk is worth a whopping R1.8-trillion.
Pretoria-born Elon Musk is worth a whopping R1.8-trillion.
Image: Reuters/Tobias Schwarz

Next time SAA needs a few billion for its bottomless money pit, it could try asking one of SA's most famous sons for help.

Elon Musk has experience with defying gravity - this week his SpaceX rocket company delivered four astronauts to the International Space Station - and he has just become the world's third richest person.

The inclusion of Tesla, the electric vehicle and battery company in which Musk has a 21% stake, in the S&P 500 index of the US's top companies sent its shares soaring on Tuesday.

Tesla now has a market value of around $418bn (R6.4-trillion), and the 500% increase in its share price this year means Pretoria-born Musk is worth $117.5bn (R1.8-trillion).

That's enough to give SAA a R10.5bn bailout - the size of the business rescue fund approved this month by finance minister Tito Mboweni - more than 170 times.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index now places Musk third on the world's rich list behind Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos ($184bn) and Microsoft founder Bill Gates ($129bn).

But at 49, Musk is seven years younger than Bezos and 16 years younger than Gates, meaning he has plenty of time to overhaul them before retirement beckons.

The person behind him on the index is Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 36, who is worth $106bn.

Musk’s wealth has grown more than $90bn (R1.4-trillion) this year, and if he can build Tesla into a $650bn company by 2028 he will earn a bonus of $55.8bn (R858bn).

Musk retains his SA citizenship even though he left for Canada aged 17 after briefly attending the University of Pretoria.