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FB Roundup: Walton, Woo and Agarwal

By Susan Lingeswaran

The world’s wealthiest families control $1.4 trillion

Bloomberg’sannual ranking of the world’s richest families has revealed the fortunes of those at the top are growing by millions of dollars every hour.

Ranked the world’s richest family, the third-generation Walton family, behind US supermarket giant Walmart, is accumulating $4 million every hour. Since June, the family’s fortune has grown from $39 billion to nearly $191 billion—a nearly 400% increase.

The family’s holding company, Walton Enterprises, owns about half of Walmart. The heirs of company founder Sam Walton include his sons Jim and Rob (pictured) and daughter Alice, along with Sam’s late son John’s widow, Christy Walton, and their son Lucas.

Other American families also saw their fortunes mount. The confectionary-making Mars family added $37 billion, bringing its fortune to $127 billion. Meanwhile, the Koch family, who made their billions from crude oil, added $26 billion, to reach $125 billion.

According to Bloomberg’s calculations, America’s richest 0.1% now control more wealth since 1926, while worldwide, the 25 wealthiest families now control almost $1.4 trillion in wealth—up 24% from last year.

However, not all families have had a successful year. Germany’s Quandt family dropped eight places following a poor year for their auto-company BMW. The Dassault (aircraft manufacturing), Duncan (oil and gas), Lee (electronics) and Hearst (media and information) families also fell from the list.

Rebecca Gooch, research director at Campden Wealth, said it can be very challenging to preserve wealth over the long term.

“Family owned operating businesses can shift from booming to declining, a family’s investment portfolio might not be well diversified or there can be issues with generational transitions.”

Hong Kong tycoon Peter Woo urges protesters to stop violence

Peter Woo, billionaire property developer, has broken his silence and urged protesters to stop their demonstrations against the government after his businesses’ posted a fall in profits.

Woo, the largest shareholder and former chairman of developer Wheelock and Co, called on the protestors “quit while you are ahead” in an article published in the Hong Kong Economic Journal.

“It’s time to think deeply,” Woo said in the Journal.

“Going against the extradition bill was the ‘big tree’ of this movement. This one and only big appeal has already been accepted by the government, so this tree has fallen.”

Hong Kong’s turmoil has spiralled since the government proposed a bill that would have allowed extraditions from the territory to Mainland China.

The two months of civil unrest has had a detrimental effect on the territory’s stock market, wiping more than $1 billion from Woo’s personal wealth, while his company’s main subsidiary, Wharf Holdings, said its underlying profit fell 12% to $285 million.

His comments come a week after 500 business leaders, including Woo, and pro-Beijing politicians met in Shenzhen to hear Beijing officials call for support in safeguarding Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.

Peter Woo is the founder of conglomerate Wheelock and Co and its main subsidiary Wharf Holdings.  Both Wheelock and Wharf have telecom, port and retailing assets, including luxury department store Lane Crawford. His son, Douglas, succeeded him as chairman in 2014.

Anil Agarwal’s family trust pulls out of bid for Jet Airways

One day after publicly announcing its interest in Jet Airways, mining baron and Vedanta chief executive Anil Agarwal said his trust will no longer pursue its bid in the debt-laden airline.

On Sunday, Volcan Investment, Agarwal’s family trust, said it had submitted an expression of interest (EOI) in buying Jet Airways.

However, in a statement on Monday, Agarwal (pictured) said the trust took the decision to back away from a bid for Jet airways.

“The EoI for Jet Airways by Volcan was exploratory in nature,” he said.

“On further evaluation and considering other priorities, we intend to not pursue this further.”

Jet, India’s oldest private airline, stopped operating on 17 April waafter running out of cash and failing to raise money to stay afloat.  In June, the National Company Law Tribunal said Jet was under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

Jet Airway’s lenders have been trying to sell the airline for the last five months but it has proved difficult. Etihad Airways, which already owns a 24% stake in the airline, refused to bid due to issues relating to Jet’s previous liabilities.

Apart from Volcan Investment, the lenders have received two EOIs—from Panama-based fund Avantulo Group and Russian fund Treasury Creator.

Metals and mining magnate Anil Agarwal turned a small scrap metal business into $15.4 billion revenue-making Vedanta Resources with interests ranging from iron ore and copper to oil and gas. 

His brother, Navin Agarwal, is executive vice chairman, while his daughter, Priya, joined Vedanta as non-executive director in 2017. His son, Agnivesh, is chairman of Vedanta’s power subsidiary Talwandi Sabo Power.

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