On the surface, 2011-12 should have been something of a lost year for the members of Australia’s Rich List.
With the ASX 200 down about 13% over the last 12 months, and Australia in the midst of a dramatic period of structural change, many members of BRW’s Rich 200 are likely to see their fortunes remain flat or fall slightly when the list is released on Thursday.
But total wealth – which hit $167 billion last year – is still likely to rise thanks to one person: Gina Rinehart, whose fortune will climb by at least $8 billion and as much as $11 billion, depending on BRW’s final valuation.
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Exactly where BRW sets its estimate of Rinehart’s wealth is one of the big questions on this year’s list, and its promotional material has suggested a range from $18 billion to $21 billion. I’m tipping $20 billion, but the final figure matters little – Rinehart is so far clear of the rest of the pack that she is likely to remain our wealthiest person for decades to come.
Two other big questions stand out for me. The first is how BRW decides to treat Clive Palmer, who was ranked at $5 billion last year in what now looks like an aggressive valuation. Palmer’s key coal project remains delayed and his investments in tourism and sport have hardly been huge successes. He will fall, but the question is by how much.
The other question is will there be any big reductions in the valuations of members in industries that are struggling. While the Pratt and Lowy families should be largely insulated from the worst effects of the structural change ripping through manufacturing and retail, other members may not be so lucky. Watch this space.
Here are our tips for the top 10 of this year’s list:
1. Gina Rinehart – $20 billion
The total wealth held by members of the Rich 200 will rise in 2012 thanks in no small part to Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart.
Thanks to a deal to sell a stake in her Roy Hill iron ore project, Rinehart’s fortune has jumped from $10.3 billion to around $20 billion. While commodity prices have eased in recent months, the slight fall in the Australian dollar should mean Rinehart’s fortune remains steady. The big question is whether some of her empire will need to be transferred to her children, but for the moment Rinehart is unquestionably in control.
2. Ivan Glasenberg – $6.1 billion
Ivan Glasenberg surged onto the Rich 200 last May thanks to the float of commodities trading giant Glencore, of which Glasenberg is chief executive and the largest shareholder. However, as the hype around the company has fallen, so has his wealth, which has dropped from $8.8 billion to just over $6 billion. Glasenberg is currently pursuing a merger with miner Xstrata, but heavy opposition is not making the deal a smooth one.
3. Anthony Pratt – $5.5 billion
It hasn’t been a great 12 months for Australia’s manufacturing sector, although the impact this has had on Anthony Pratt’s Visy Industries empire is hard to gauge. Shares in its great Australian rival Amcor are up 5%, but given it does not have the same level of overseas operations, it seems reasonable to expect the family fortune would be broadly in line with last year.
4. Frank Lowy – $5 billion
Retail might be hurting, but the blue-chip landlord Westfield hasn’t suffered too badly, with its share price slightly higher across the last 12 months. However, any small increase in the value of the Lowy family’s Westfield stakes is likely to have been offset by small decreases in the value of its private portfolio of shares and property – another Rich 200 member who isn’t likely to have moved in the last year.