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ECONOMY | 09-03-2019 02:38

Fewer Argentines on Forbes billionaires list

Number down from nine last year, as nation’s richest hit by depreciation of the peso and recession.

The number of Argentines on Forbes’ annual ranking of billionaires has fallen from nine to five individuals, with the nation’s richest hit by the depreciation of the peso and economic turmoil.

The 2019 Forbes Billionaires list, an annual compilation of the world’s richest individuals, was released Tuesday, detailing the net worth of the world’s richest people.

For only the second time in the past decade, the number of people categorised as billionaires by the US magazine decreased from the 2018 statistics.

Asia suffered a drop in representation, while an unexpected surge in the Americas made Brazil and the United States the only two countries to increase the number of billionaires among their ranks. Local presence, given the country’s recent economic troubles, was noticeably lacking.

Five Argentines made the list this year, down from nine in 2018, while total wealth in the country dropped sharply from US$15.6 billion to US$10.9 billion, the magazine reported.

At its lowest point in 2002, after the financial crisis that rocked the Argentine economy, the country claimed only a single billionaire, with a total wealth of US$1 billion. It wasn’t until 2011 that the number of billionaires rose above one again.

Now, after slow growth from 2016 to 2018, the current economic climate is evident in Argentina’s regression on the 2019 list.

“Argentina didn’t do so well this year,” said Forbes’ Assistant Managing Editor Kerry Dolan, who oversees the compilation of the list. “It’s a combination of the stock market and weakened currency. Anytime the currency weakens against the dollar, net worth will go down.”

Among the Argentines that did make the rankings is Alejandro Bulgheroni, the oil and gas magnate behind Bridas Corporation, who registered at a net worth of US$3.2 billion at the time of writing. He ranked at 715 in the global rankings.

“Alejandro Bulgheroni is kind of low-key, but very wealthy,” said Dolan. “He seems to be very into the wineries.”

Shortly behind Bulgheroni is Alberto Roemmers, the majority owner of Argentina’s largest pharmaceutical company, Laboratorios Roemmers. His fortune grew from US$1.8 billion in 2018 to US$3 billion as of the time of writing, placing him 745th.

Eduardo Eurnekian, CEO of Corporacion America Airports, Marcos Galperin, CEO of e-commerce platform MercadoLibre, and Gregorio Pérez Companc, founder of energy conglomerate Perez Companc, also made appearances on the list, each with a fortune listed at US$1.6 billion by Forbes.

BRAZILIAN BOOM

In an unexpected surge, Brazil carried the bulk of Latin American representation this year, registering an impressive 16 new billionaires in 2019 for a total of 58. Their total wealth reached US$179.1 billion.

“Brazil was kind of the surprise, because the country has gone through such turmoil politically and economically,” Dolan explained. “This is the most billionaires we’ve had from Brazil since 2014. There are a lot of newly public companies where the stocks have done well.”

Among those to watch in Brazil, Dolan noted Luiza Helena Trajano, former CEO of retailer Magazine Luiza, who led the company’s highly successful expansion into e-commerce. She also highlighted the Feffer brothers, four billionaire siblings who run paper firm Suzano Papel e Celulose.

“The newcomers [in Brazil] are quite interesting, particularly in hospitals and health insurance, some retailers,” Dolan said.

In another dramatic twist, 11 percent of those who made last year’s list dropped off, the most to do so since the peak of the global financial crisis in 2009. Amidst forecasts of a worldwide economic slowdown, the billionaires list only seems to reinforce such concerns.

“I’m not in the business of predictions,” Dolan said. “It’s so hard to know how markets will perform. That’s what makes the list interesting to read.”

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Kat Van Sligtenhorst

Kat Van Sligtenhorst

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