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NRI steel baron overtakes SA's richest

Mittal has ousted traditional leaders ? the Oppenheimer and Rupert families.

india Updated: Dec 23, 2005 14:11 IST

India-born steel magnate Lakshmi N Mittal has become the richest man in South Africa, ousting the traditional leaders - the Oppenheimer and Rupert families, says a national weekly.

This follows London-based Mittal's takeover of former state-owned steel producer Iscor.

"The Oppenheimer and Rupert families have always been considered South Africa's richest families, but research reveals that it is actually a foreigner, the Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal who is the richest in the country," Sunday Times wrote in its Rich List as part of a special Christmas Edition.

Mittal's 50 per cent stake in Mittal Steel SA won him this new status. The new company was born out of Iscor, which he turned around with a huge cash injection and cost-cutting technologies after first taking an interest four years ago when Iscor was ailing.

The value of Mittal's interest in Mittal Steel is 10.22 billion rands, putting him ahead of Nicky Oppenheimer of Anglo American plc, whose four per cent stake in the company is worth 9.28 billion rands. The Rembrandt Trust, belonging to the Rupert family, has investments worth 6.1 billion rands, giving it third place.

After that, investment values start dropping rapidly, with only two South African Indians making the top 150 - filmmaker Anant Singh, whose stake in Kagiso Media is worth 107.5 million rands; and AK Peer of the clothing retailer LA Group, worth 85.6 million rands.

Although Mittal's interest in South Africa is worth over 10 billion rands, this is reportedly only about five per cent of his total wealth, according to the Forbes list.

Mittal moved up 59 places to become the third richest man in the world in the Forbes list after his many acquisitions worldwide of steel companies that has made Mittal Steel the largest steel company in the world.

In keeping with this status, two years ago, Mittal paid $128 million for the most expensive mansion in Britain when he bought the Kensington Palace Gardens home of Formula One racing boss Ernie Ecclestone.

Mittal also reportedly spent $55 million on his daughter's wedding in France last year.

First Published: Dec 22, 2005 20:52 IST