Mittal still richest person in India


Lakshmi Mittal

NEW DELHI: Lakshmi Mittal, the chief executive of Mittal Steel Co, retained his position as India's richest person with an estimated wealth of US$20bil, Forbes Asia said, as demand for commodities boosted the tycoon's fortune. 

Wipro Ltd chairman Azim Premji, with an estimated wealth of US$11bil, is second on the annual Forbes Asia list of India's 40 richest people. 

The magazine said in a news release yesterday that the combined wealth of the list jumped 74% to US$106bil. Twenty-seven members on the list are billionaires, more than double last year's count. 

Azim Premji

India-born Mittal, 55, has bought steel mills from Poland to South Africa since 2003, benefiting as soaring demand from shipyards and building sites in China boosted global prices. The purchases have made Mittal Steel the world's biggest steel producer. 

Mittal, born into a family of steelmakers in Rajasthan, India, and now lives in London, started out with a steel mill in Indonesia in 1976. Since January 2003, he has bought controlling stakes in mills in the United States, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Macedonia and South Africa. 

In March, Mittal overtook Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing as Asia's richest person, according to Forbes magazine. 

Premji, 60, took Western India Vegetable Products Ltd, the business his father started as a cooking oil maker in 1945, and built a technology company with US$1.82bil in annual sales. He employed engineers and built his first minicomputer in 1982 and produced Wipro's first personal computer in 1986. 

Mukesh Ambani, 48, chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd, India's biggest non-state company, was ranked third on the list with an estimated wealth of US$7bil, the statement said. 

Anil Ambani, 46, who heads Anil Dhirbhai Ambani Enterprises, which includes Reliance Infocomm Ltd, Reliance Energy Ltd and Reliance Capital Ltd, is the country's fourth richest with an estimated wealth of US$5.5bil. 

The Ambani brothers Mukesh (right) and Anil

The Ambani brothers in June agreed to split the group's businesses among themselves, with the flagship Reliance Industries going to elder brother Mukesh Ambani, and younger sibling Anil Ambani getting control of the telecommunications, energy and finance companies. 

The Forbes list has seven newcomers including Naresh Goyal, 56, who runs Jet Airways (India) Ltd, the nation's biggest domestic airline, with an estimated wealth of US$1.9bil. 

India-born Anurag Dikshit and Vikrant Bhargava, who set up the world's largest online poker operator PartyGaming Plc, have also made it to the list. Dikshit's wealth is estimated at US$3.1bil, and Bhargava's wealth is estimated at US$870mil. 

Sunil Mittal, chairman of Bharti Tele-Ventures Ltd, has been ranked the sixth richest Indian with an estimated wealth of US$4.9bil. Vodafone Group Plc in October bought a 10% stake in Bharti Tele-Ventures, India's largest mobile phone operator, for about US$1.5bil cash. – Bloomberg  

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