・Russia's 100 richest worth $248 billion: Forbes
・Russia's Rich Gain $107 Billion in Year, Forbes Says

Russia's 100 richest worth $248 billion: Forbes

By Guy Faulconbridge
Thu Apr 20, 11:03 AM ET

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The 100 richest Russians have assets worth $248 billion or more than a quarter of Russia's nominal gross domestic product, according to the Russian version of Forbes magazine which hit news-stands on Thursday.

Roman Abramovich, 39, owner of English soccer club Chelsea, stayed at the top with a fortune of $18.3 billion, a gain of $3.6 billion on last year, said the magazine.

Collectively, the fortunes of Russia's richest who are often termed "oligarchs" grew by $107 billion over the past year.

"The rich are becoming richer because the Russian economy is becoming richer," Kirill Vishnepolsky, deputy chief editor of Forbes in Russia, told Reuters.

"The value of many Russian companies has risen faster than the economy over the past year as they were undervalued."

Russia now has 44 dollar billionaires. But their fortunes compare to average wages of $3,600 per year, according to official Russian statistics.

Many ordinary Russians view the oligarchs with a mixture of envy and resentment and are quick to accuse them of having made illicit gains.

Russia's richest amassed massive fortunes and influence in the chaotic privatizations that followed the fall of the Soviet Union.

They have bolstered their wealth in recent years in a wave of initial public offerings and attempts to present a more friendly face to foreign investors, who have been attracted back to Russia's sometimes turbulent markets since the 1998 crisis.

Still, Russia's economy remains reliant on commodities and economists say small and medium size businesses account for a much smaller part of the economy than in developed countries.

Vishnepolsky said the dominance of raw materials had declined in the list as other sectors grow.

"We are seeing new surnames, surnames that represent retail, machine building, banking, companies that service the raw materials industry and even agriculture companies," he said.

The best performing billionaire over the year was Vagit Alekperov, 55, chief executive officer of LUKOIL, Russia's biggest oil company, whose wealth tripled to $12.7 billion -- still a distant No.2 behind Abramovich.


Russia's stock market have frequently hit records as high prices for oil, metals and gas and soaring domestic consumption drive the economy through an eighth straight year of boom.

"The flow of money into the stock market, high prices for metals and the growing attractiveness of the banking, insurance and building businesses are the main reasons for the growth in prosperity of the members of the list," Maxim Kashulnsky, Forbes chief editor in Russia, said in a statement.

One name was conspicuous by its absence: Mikhail Khordokovsky, the founder of oil firm YUKOS and once top of Forbes list, has dropped out of the top hundred after making 21st place with $2.1 billion last year.

He is now serving an eight year sentence in a Siberian jail for fraud and tax evasion, charges that his supporters say were dreamt up to destroy him as a political rival to President Vladimir Putin. YUKOS faces bankruptcy.

The five richest members of the list -- Abramovich, Alekperov, Vladimir Lisin, owner of steel maker NLMK, Mikhail Fridman, owner of Alfa Group, and Viktor Vekselberg, a shareholder in TNK-BP -- have a total wealth of $62.8 billion.

Boris Berezovsky, a vigorous critic of President Vladimir Putin who lives in exile in Britain, has a fortune of $1 billion, Forbes said.

Russia's gross domestic product is expected to grow to 25.81 trillion roubles ($939.9 billion) this year, according to government forecasts.


Russia's Rich Gain $107 Billion in Year, Forbes Says (Update1)

April 19 (Bloomberg) -- Russia's rich added $107 billion to their wealth during the past year as commodity and stock prices soared, Forbes magazine said.

The ``Golden Hundred,'' led by Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich for a second year, had $248 billion of assets on March 24, 76 percent more than 12 months before, Forbes's Russian edition said in a preview of its annual survey. The wealth represents about a third of Russian gross domestic product.

``The inflow of money in the stock market, rising prices for metals and the attractiveness of the banking, insurance and construction businesses'' fueled the increase, Forbes Chief Editor Maxim Kashulinsky said in a statement today.

Since collapsing in 1998, the $770 billion Russian economy is in its eighth straight year of growth, driven by surging prices for oil and natural gas. The Russian Trading System stock index is the world's third-best performer this year, rising 43 percent to a record and extending last year's 83 percent climb.

The threshold to make this year's wealthy list was $450 million, almost double what it took last year, Forbes Russia said on the Web site of its publisher, Axel Springer AG. The magazine goes on sale in Russia tomorrow.


Russia is home to the world's third-largest clutch of billionaires, according to Forbes's U.S. edition.

Abramovich, 39, who overtook jailed OAO Yukos Oil Co. owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky in last year's list, saw his fortune swell by $3.6 billion to $18.3 billion after he sold oil producer OAO Sibneft to state-run OAO Gazprom for $13.1 billion last year.

Khodorkovsky, 42, is serving eight years in a Siberian labor camp for tax evasion and fraud.

He topped Forbes's 2004 list with a fortune of $15.2 billion, which shrank to $2 billion in last year's list after the Russian government sold Yukos's biggest asset to recover a back- tax bill that has risen to more than $30 billion. Forbes didn't say if Khodorkovsky made this year's ``Golden Hundred.''

The biggest gainer in this year's top 100 is Vagit Alekperov, chief executive officer of OAO Lukoil, Russia's largest oil company. The 55-year-old former Soviet oil official's fortune tripled in the year, rising by $8.6 billion, as his shares in Lukoil and other companies surged, Forbes said.

Crude oil touched $71.80 today, the highest since futures began trading in 1983. The Goldman Sachs Commodity Index of 24 commodities rose to a record yesterday, led by gains in metals, sugar and gas. Russia is the world's largest energy supplier.

Alekperov is now Russia's second-richest man, Forbes said, without giving an estimate of his fortune. The U.S. edition of the magazine said last month Alekperov was worth $11 billion.

New, Young

The richest newcomer on the list is Alexander Frolov, chairman of Evraz Group SA, Russia's biggest steelmaker. Frolov debuts with a net value of $2.4 billion, Forbes said.

The youngest members of the ``Golden Hundred,'' at 34, Andrei Melnichenko and Sergei Popov, co-founders of financial- industrial holding company MDM Group, and Danil Khachaturov of state-controlled insurer OAO Rosgosstrakh, Forbes said.

The MDM partners are each worth $3.8 billion and Khachaturov is worth $760, the magazine said.

Entering at No. 100 with $450 million to his name is Alexei Fedorychev, who sponsors the Monaco and Dynamo professional European soccer clubs and owns sulfur and shipping assets via his Fedkominvest holding.

They helped reduce the proportion of Russia's richest people who depend on energy assets for their wealth. Two years ago, natural resources accounted for the bulk of the assets of 64 of the 100 richest. Now that number is 40, Forbes said.

Forbes's U.S. edition published its own rich survey last month in which it identified 33 Russian billionaires, 11 fewer than its Russian counterpart. Forbes Russia didn't give an explanation for the discrepancy and no one at Forbes or Axel Springer could be reached for comment in Moscow.

The U.S. led the billionaire count in the U.S. Forbes survey, with 371, followed by Germany with 55.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Bradley Cook in Moscow at bcook7@bloomberg.net.
Last Updated: April 19, 2006 13:24 EDT

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