Thursday, June 22, 2023

After 12 years at No.1 Aliko Dangote is now 2nd Richest man in Africa

For the first time in a dozen years, Aliko Dangote has fallen from his perch as Africa’s richest person. The continent’s new number one, according to Forbes’ calculations, is Johann Rupert of South Africa, who built a fortune in luxury goods and more. Rupert overtook Dangote on Thursday, June 15 and has an estimated net worth of $11.7 billion, according to Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires ranking at 10 a.m. ET on June 21. This marks the first time that Rupert ranks as the richest person in Africa; he's been on Forbes' list of billionaires since at least 1997. Dangote, 66, stands in second place behind Rupert, 73, among African billionaires with a fortune estimated at $10.4 billion. That’s a $3.7 billion drop from the $14.1 billion net worth Dangote had on Wednesday, June 14.

The decline of Dangote’s fortune comes in the wake of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s decision to float its currency, the naira, on June 14, abandoning the fixed exchange rate with the U.S. dollar. The naira, which had been trading around 465 per U.S. dollar, plummeted about 40% against the U.S. dollar on Friday, June 16 and fell to a low of N690 to the U.S. dollar on Tuesday, June 20.

The majority of Dangote’s fortune lies in his 85% ownership of listed firm Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest cement producer, shares of which have risen about 1% since the central bank’s decision to float the currency. The plunging naira far outweighed the slight uptick in Dangote Cement’s shares in shifting Dangote’s fortune.

The continent’s new No. 1, Rupert is chairman of Compagnie Financi√®re Richemont, a Switzerland-listed luxury goods powerhouse that boasts brands such as Cartier, Montblanc and Van Cleef & Arpels. Richemont was founded by Rupert in 1988 when he spun off the international assets from The Rembrandt Group, his father’s conglomerate formed in the 1940s. Rupert also serves as chairman of Remgro, a South African investment holding company with a diversified portfolio in banking, healthcare and media companies. He also owns part of the Saracens English rugby team and says his biggest regret was not buying half of Gucci when he had the opportunity to do so–decades ago– for just $175 million.

Rupert’s net worth has increased by nearly $3 billion since early 2022 and more than doubled since early 2020, when Forbes estimated it at $4.6 billion.

The Nigerian Central Bank’s decision to float the naira is part of newly-elected President Bola Tinubu’s larger efforts to reportedly encourage investment into Nigeria and stop black market operators profiting from the margin between official and unofficial financial markets. Tinubu took office in May and since then has led an overhaul of the Nigerian economy that also includes abolishing the country's fuel subsidies, an incentive that has been in place since the 1970s.

According to Nimi Wariboko, a former investment banker in Nigeria and former strategic consultant at Nigeria’s Central Bank, Dangote may be able to play Tinubu’s scrapping of state fuel subsidies to his advantage with his company’s launch of a new oil refinery in Lagos last month. The plant was built to combat the country’s fuel shortages–Nigeria hasn’t been able to refine the oil extracted domestically–and was built at a reported cost of $19 billion. But Wariboko says it might also provide Dangote with an opportunity to reclaim his position as Africa's wealthiest individual.

“So he’s going to have a monopoly on [refining oil in Nigeria] and also be able to sell at a higher market price,” said Wariboko. “So this fall seems temporary.”

Representatives for Rupert and Dangote did not reply to a request for comment.

By Jemima Denham, Forbes

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