Thursday, November 13, 2008

Top 40 Richest Indians

The global financial crisis has hit the subcontinent hard--the wealthiest Indians are worth 60% less than a year ago.

These are painful times for India's richest as the ongoing global turmoil drastically reshapes their fortunes. The country's once soaring stock market fell 48% in the 12 months, the rupee depreciated 24% against the dollar and gross domestic product growth is expected to slow down to 7.5%, partly owing to double-digit inflation.

All of this conspired to knock 60% off the combined fortunes of the nation's 40 wealthiest. Their total net worth fell $212 billion, to $139 billion, down from $351 billion a year ago.
Last year's No. 1, U.K. resident Lakshmi Mittal, dropped $30.5 billion amid plunging steel prices, but he slips only a bit, to No. 2. Mukesh Ambani, who oversees petrochemicals giant Reliance Industries, grabs the top spot for the first time, despite losing $28.2 billion in the past year. His estranged brother, Anil, ranked third, is the biggest dollar loser, down $32.5 billion.

Others were nearly wiped out entirely. India's wind power man Tulsi Tanti and his brothers lost 91% of their fortune, amid reports about the poor quality of Suzlon's wind blades. Real estate fortunes were among those hit the hardest. K.P.Singh lost $27.2 billion since we last published our listing but is down an astonishing $39 billion since his DLF stock peaked in January. Property tycoon Ramesh Chandra's net worth dropped 91% to $1 billion. His Unitech lost half its market capitalization in one day last month.

Thirty-three of the 34 tycoons who returned to our ranking of India's richest are at least 20% poorer than they were a year ago. Only one fortune from last year's ranks increased, that of brothers Malvinder and Shivinder Singh, who sold their 34% stake in generic drug firm Ranbaxy Laboratories to Japan's Daiichi Sankyo at a hefty premium to its current stock price. They added $550 million to their combined wealth.

Others with pharmaceuticals fortunes outperformed the market, but thanks to a sliding rupee, their net worth fell too. Dilip Shanghvi of SunPharma, India's most valuable drug maker, was poorer by $800 million, despite an increase in his net worth in rupees.

Six people dropped off our list altogether after losing a collective $7.9 billion. They included flamboyant liquor and airlines tycoon Vijay Mallya, whose Kingfisher Airlines (other-otc: KNGFY.PK - news - people ) is racking up losses, and Gautam Thapar, whose Ballarpur Industries is India's largest paper maker. Taking their places are four newcomers, including Micky Jagtiani, who oversees a retailing empire in the Middle East, and Hemant Shah, son of a Bollywood film producer, who made his fortune in construction.
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Returning to the list after a one-year absence are Yusuf Hamied, head of generics producer Cipla, and Brijmohan Lall Munjal, patriarch of Hero Group, which makes motorcycles and bicycles.

Some more sobering statistics: While all 40 tycoons were billionaires last year, only 27 now have 10-figure fortunes, nine fewer than in 2006.

These net worths are snapshots of wealth taken on Nov. 3, when we locked in market prices and exchange rates. Had we locked in just a week earlier, the losses would have been still greater, as the nation's main index gained 21% in the days leading up to our list publication.

Privately held companies were valued by comparing them to similar public companies. Indian nonresidents like Lakshmi Mittal were included as long as they still hold Indian citizenship. This ranking, unlike the Forbes billionaires list, includes family fortunes.