#RichList: How SA's wealthy have got richer

06 December 2015 - 02:02 By LONI PRINSLOO

The old saying "You need money to make money" proved true this year: many of South Africa's richest managed to get richer even as the economy slowed almost to a halt.

The 20 richest people in the country grew their collective wealth in the past year by more than 13%, from R256-billion last year to more than R294-billion this year.

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In the past 10 years, the economy went from relatively strong growth of around 5% in 2006 and 5.5% in 2007 to its current very slow growth of under 1%.

Back in 2007, the world was experiencing strong demand for commodities and resources. As a result, South Africa's mining and metals magnates took the top positions on the Rich List.

In 2007, the 20 richest people shared a fortune of R77-billion, which ballooned to R150-billion the following year.

Leading the pack were steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, diamond king Nicky Oppenheimer and mining magnate Patrice Motsepe.

When the global recession hit in 2009, it punched a number of South African billionaires in the stomach, and the top 20 richest people saw their fortunes shrink back to R70.8-billion.

Mittal, Oppenheimer and Motsepe all took a hit, but still held the top three positions as the richest men in South Africa.

Meanwhile, retail dealmaker Christo Wiese was catching up.

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By 2011, the economy had recovered somewhat and was growing at 3.5% - and the riches of the top 20 in South Africa recovered to R124-billion collectively.

The following year, Motsepe took the spot as South Africa's richest man.

That was the last year Mittal or Oppenheimer featured on the South African Rich List, as the Oppenheimers sold their stake in diamond giant De Beers and Anglo American, and Mittal's stake in local operations is not disclosed.

The past five years have seen a slowdown of the local economy and in the latest quarter growth stalled at a mere 0.7%.

Motsepe, who has been trying to give away half of his family fortune to the poor since 2013, now only holds 18th position on the Rich List.

Last year, the collective wealth of South Africa's 20 richest people came to R256-billion, with Glencore's Ivan Glasenberg taking the top spot as South Africa's richest man and his personal invested wealth coming to R61-billion.

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But a shocker of a year in the resources sector has seen Glasenberg lose almost 60% of his personal wealth. That now leaves him with a little less than R25-billion - enough to still make him the second-richest person in South Africa.

Wiese, who was the ninth-richest person in 2007, with personal wealth of just more than R3-billion, is now head and shoulders above everyone else with almost R105-billion.

While the slower economy and plummeting commodity prices have rattled some of South Africa's rich, Wiese has grown his wealth by almost 200% in the past year.

Wiese has not been satisfied with having a stake in more than 5000 stores in 20 countries through Pepkor, Steinhoff and Shoprite. He also, through Brait, acquired the gym group Virgin Active and retailer New Look, bought into Iceland Foods, and launched Pep & Co in the UK this year.

He clearly knows how to make more money from a lot of money.

prinsloop@sundaytimes.co.za.

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