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July 28, 2014
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Six slots for Argentina on Forbes list

Forbes released its annual billionaires ranking yesterday, in which Argentines take up six slots out of 1,645. Steel magnates Paolo Rocca (pictured on left) and his brother Gianfelice Mario Rocca placed 215th on the list while oil-industry players Carlos and Alejandro Bulgheroni took up the 256th spot.

Steel giants take top billionaires spot, others have wealth in oil, mining, media, food

Seated in front of a Microsoft computer, connected to a Claro Internet connection and simultaneously wearing something from the Zara clothing store is about as close as an ordinary Argentine might hope to get to the top of the Forbes billionaires list. For five others, whose billion-dollar wealth nudged them comfortably into the much-hyped list of almost unfathomable fortune for 2013, realities are slightly different.

With US$6.30 billion shared between them, Paolo and Gianfelice Mario Rocca, owners of “Techint Group, the global leader in seamless steal pipe production for the oil industry,” ranked 215th on the list of the world’s 1,645 billionaires. The brothers also scored well in average net wealth, with Forbes calculating the average billionaire bank balance for 2013 at US$4.7 billion.

Argentina’s billionaires still fall short though. The pair of brothers came in well behind medal winners: come-back king Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim (whose company operates Claro in Argentina), and the majority shareholder of the Zara clothing brand, Spaniard Amancio Ortega.

Next up on Argentina’s ranking were the owners of the Bridas Corporation, Carlos and Alejandro Bulgheroni, who ended up 256th with a wealth in 2013 of US$5.5 billion.

Corporación America chief Eduardo Eurnekian came in third at No. 931, with his US$1.9 billion wealth marking a significant gap with the Rocca and Bulgheroni brothers. Retired Argentine businessman Gregorio Perez Companc took fourth place, at No. 1,154 with US$1.5 billion, followed by María Ines de Lafuente Lacroze at No. 1,372 with US$1.2 billion. She and her cement-making family tied with 56-year-old Alberto Roemmers, also with US$1.2 billion.

Reserve wealth

The Rocca brothers, who were actually placed by Forbes in its “Italy” list since the two were born in Milan, inherited the wealth of their father, Agostino, which boomed in 1950s industrial Argentina. They have interests in steel, oil and gas, hospitals and Italy, among others. Paolo is the only brother who lives in Argentina.

The number two Bulgheroni brothers are “life-long oil men,” as Forbes put it, who own a broad portfolio of assets, from farmland in neighbouring Uruguay to a 40-percent stake in Pan-American Energy alongside BP’s 60-percent stake.

In 2010, the brothers orchestrated the sale of 50 percent of the company they inherited from their father, Bridas Corporation, to Chinese firm CNOOC, which paid them US$3.1 billion.

Eduardo Eurnekian at number three in the Argentine wealth arena and No. 931 on the billionaire list, made his millions in the 1980s in cable television and textiles. The son of Armenian immigrants, he began selling off his media assets in the 1990s before scoring a 30-year concession to build airports across the country, as well as in Brazil. That deal alone is estimated by Forbes to bring in revenues of US$1.2 billion annually.

In fourth spot, Gregorio Pérez Companc and family were reported to own around US$1.5 billion in wealth. Now retired, Pérez Companc was at the helm of Molinos Río de la Plata, Argentina’s largest food company, for 25 years, during which time he acquired a range of assets including farmland and a broad portfolio of shares. The 78-year-old high school dropout has seven children.

María Ines de Lafuente and family — who ranked fifth on the list of Argentines and No. 1,372 among worldwide billionaires — inherited the wealth of Argentina’s former richest woman, Amalia Lacroze Fortabat, who died in 2012, aged 90. Her enormous estate included a collection of fine art, 220,000 acres of land in the country and the fortune obtained from the sale of Lacroze’s cement company, Loma Negra, which she sold in 2005 for US$825 million.

Closing off the list, and tied with de Lafuente and her family with US$1.2 billion, is Alberto Roemmers. At 56 years of age, Roemmers is the head of Laboratorios Roemmers, Argentina’s largest pharmaceutical firm and the 14th in Latin America. He also owns property in both Argentina and Uruguay, as well as a sizeable art collection.

Last week, the Herald profiled 15 of Argentina’s wealthiest men and women, whose joint fortunes of US$26.85 billion based on Forbes findings falls just shy of the US$27.679 billion currently in the Argentine Central Bank’s foreign reserve account.

100+ LATAM billionaires

With a Mexican taking silver and a Spaniard bronze, on a regional level it was actually the Lusophones who dominated. Of the over 100 Latin Americans on the list, 66 were Brazilians, 16 were Mexicans, 12 were Chileans and eight were Peruvians. Argentina came in next, ahead of Colombia and Venezuela with four and three billionaires, respectively.

At No. 34 on the list, Brazilian beer mogul Jorge Paulo Lemann was worth US$19.7 billion in 2013, followed by his compatriot banker Joseph Safra at No. 55 with US$16 billion.

The Chilean mining widow Iris Fontbona and her family came in fourth regionally and 58th on the Forbes billionaire list with a US$15.5-fortune. She is the richest women in Latin America and the ninth richest woman in the world.

Herald staff

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