Rich Pickings: Five Rich Listers to watch in 2013

feature-packer-gina-200Australia’s community of wealthy entrepreneurs will enter 2013 with a sense of cautious optimism that comes from the optimist’s eternal philosophy: Things can only get better, can’t they?

For those in the mining game – 2012 will be remembered as the year when things got much tougher. For the rest of the super-rich club, 2012 will be remembered as a year of shifting sands, when uncertainty about the state of the Australian economy and the global recovery put the brakes on growth.

But while entrepreneurs might not enter 2013 with a strong sense of where the economy is heading, it could be the year when the wealthy get off their hands and start chasing growth opportunities.

With this in mind, I’ve picked five Rich Listers to keep a close eye on in 2013. These are the entrepreneurs that will either make the news, or make plenty of cash:

1. Brett Blundy

Since Brett Blundy privatised his retail group in late 2006 he has largely dropped from public view. But he continues to quietly build a retail empire, concentrating on relatively unloved property assets to find bargains. In December, Blundy purchased the Midland Central Homemaker Centre in Perth for $43.1 million, taking his tally of bulky goods retail centres to nine. All up, the portfolio’s value has been put at $500 million.

Blundy recently raised $40 million from property syndicate investors to target his latest acquisition and more like it; he is reportedly looking at buying a stake in GPT’s $200 million homemaker centre portfolio in Queensland.

Blundy’s wealth fell from $938 million to $835 million, according to BRW, presumably as a result of falling property prices. But Blundy clearly feels that the retail sector’s struggles are allowing him to find bargains that will pay off in the long term.

2. Gina Rinehart

Gina Rinehart’s $29 billion valuation is certain to take a substantial hit in the 2013 Rich 200 edition, although how much of a hit depends very much on what happens to iron ore prices in the next few months.

But regardless of what happens to Rinehart numerically, her empire is at an interesting point. Construction of the Roy Hill mine – the $10 billion project that would finally make her a miner in her own right – has been delayed until mid-2013, pushing the date of first production from the end of 2014 into the next year.

Next year also represents D-Day when it comes to getting the finance for the project in place; Rinehart needs export credit agencies to provide $4 billion in funding and commercial banks to provide a further $3 billion. Rinehart’s partners in the project, including Korea’s Posco (owner of 12.5%), Japan’s Marubeni (12.5%), Korea’s STX (2.5%) and Taiwan’s China Steel (2.5%) have already agreed to contribute $3.2 billion.

It’s a big year for Rinehart. After a year of media plays and books, mining is likely to be her strict focus.

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