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Steel-to-telecoms tycoon tops Forbes Russia rich list
Russian billionaires Alisher Usmanov (left), Arsenal Football Club shareholder Roman Abramovich, Chelsea Football Club owner.
Steel and telecoms tycoon Alisher Usmanov topped Forbes magazine’s annual list of Russia’s rich, thanks to his nose for hot Internet stocks and the declining wealth of well-heeled peers.
Usmanov, 58, became Russia’s richest citizen with a net worth of $18.1 billion, up by $400 million from last year.
He has a stake in the social network Facebook as well as in Zynga and Groupon through his investment firm DST Global.
“Alisher Usmanov is Russia’s richest citizen for the first time. The gap may widen when Facebook goes public,” Forbes said.
Facebook was expected to conduct one of the most hotly anticipated U.S. initial public offerings this year.
But the bulk of Uzbekistan-born Usmanov’s wealth is underground through his control of Metalloinvest, Russia’s largest iron ore miner.
The group, which also owns steel mills in Russia and the United Arab Emirates, received a boost in 2011 when it refinanced its debt, according to Forbes.
He also has a minority stake in MegaFon, Russia’s No.2 mobile operator, where he might soon seek majority control.
MegaFon has signed a $2 billion syndicated loan with three international lenders as it raises funds to buy back a one-quarter stake owned by businessman Mikhail Fridman. Sources familiar with the company say the stake sale could be a prelude to a bid by Usmanov to take control.
He also owns the biggest Russian business daily, Kommersant, and has a stake in Arsenal, one of Britain’s top soccer clubs.
Usmanov grabbed the lead from Vladimir Lisin, owner of Russia’s fourth-largest steelmaker NLMK whose fortune declined by $8 billion to $15.9 billion.
Lisin’s diminishing wealth was part of a trend as the net worth of most of Russia’s top 10 billionaires fell.
The price of shares in their assets slid on global economic concerns and took a further hit on concerns over Russia’s political stability before Vladimir Putin’s election as president in March.
Usmanov and Leonid Mikhelson, the owner of Russia’s largest independent gas producer Novatek, were the only top 10 businessmen whose net worth gained last year.
The number of dollar-denominated billionaires in Russia fell by five to 96 last year, while the aggregate wealth of the top 20 businessmen was $446 billion, down from $499 billion.
Below is the net worth of the top 10 Russian billionaires, according to Forbes magazine (as of Feb 14, 2012):
1. Alisher Usmanov, $18.1 billion (previously $17.7 billion): (Sector) steel, telecom, investments.
2. Vladimir Lisin, $15.9 billion ($24 billion): steel, transport.
3. Alexei Mordashov, $15.3 billion ($18.5 billion): steel, investments.
4. Vladimir Potanin, $14.5 billion ($17.8 billion): metals.
5. Vagit Alekperov, $13.5 billion ($13.9 billion): oil.
6. Mikhail Fridman, $13.4 billion ($15.1 billion): oil, banking, telecom.
7. Mikhail Prokhorov $13.2 billion ($18 billion): investments.
8. Viktor Vekselberg, $12.4 billion ($13 billion): oil, metals.
9. Roman Abramovich, $12.1 billion ($13.4 billion): steel, investments.
10. Leonid Mikhelson, $11.9 billion ($9.1 billion): gas, chemicals.
Source: REUTERS, Photo: REUTERS
(Reporting by Polina Devitt and Alfred Kueppers; Editing by David Cowell)