Europe’s richest man is Spaniard Amancio Ortega, owner of Zara clothing chain
Just as Spain asked Europe for a bailout of 125 billion Euros, Amancio Ortega, the septuagenarian Spaniard who founded retailer Inditex SA became the region’s richest man.
The tycoon’s fortune rose 3.8 billion to 39.5 billion dollars on June 13, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That places the owner of the Zara clothing chain above Sweden’s Ingvar Kamprad, who has an estimated net worth of 37.2 billion, and France’s Bernard Arnault, who finished the day at 22.7 billion.
Ortega’s wealth has surged even as Spain reels from a financial crisis that has sent borrowing costs spiralling while joblessness hovers above 24%. By reducing its dependence on its home turf and adding stores in emerging markets, Inditex managed a 30% gain in first-quarter profit.
“The truth is it doesn’t matter if he’s Spanish or not,” said Christodoulos Chaviaras, a retail analyst at Barclays Plc in London. The company “goes beyond Spanish borders anyway, so it actually benefits massively from the strength of the Chinese consumer. They look like they’re immune to any crisis.”
Net income at Inditex, the world’s largest clothing retailer, rose to 432 million Euros in the three months through April, the Arteixo, Spain-based company said last week. The company posted sales of 3.42 billion Euros at stores that include Zara, Pull & Bear and Massimo Dutti.
About 22% of Inditex’s sales will come from Spain this year, compared with 45% from emerging markets, according to Anne Critchlow, an analyst at Societe Generale SA in London. The company still has most of its stores -- more than 4.300 -- in Europe, with almost 900 in Asia and about 400 in the Americas. Inditex said it plans to start online sales in China in September.
Ortega, 76, became the fourth-richest individual on Earth after adding 4.6 billion dollars to his fortune so far this year. The only people richer are Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim, Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett.
Since Inditex’s public offering in 2001, Ortega has earned 2.3 billion Euros in dividends. He invested much of that into commercial property, taking advantage of the decline in real estate prices that began in 2007.
Next among the world’s wealthiest is Kamprad, the 86-year- old founder of furniture retailer IKEA. He maintains control over the closely held business through a network of holding companies and legal entities established more than 30 years ago. His fortune has risen by 74 million dollars since the end of 2011.
Arnault’s net worth estimate was lowered by 14.6 billion on May 17 because of the way he owns his stake in LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest maker of luxury goods. While his 70.4% holding in Christina Dior gives him all the publicly traded company’s voting power in LVMH, his economic interest is lower than the figure in LVMH annual report. Arnault, 63, is the 14th richest person in the world.