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Spain's richest man earns €16.7 Bln in 2012

Source: El Pais / Bloomberg - Fri 4th Jan 2013
Spain's richest man earns €16.7 Bln in 2012

Amancio Ortega, the founder of Inditex, was the billionaire who most increased his fortune last year, according to Bloomberg's Billionaire Index.

As a result, the 76-year-old leading shareholder of the Galicia-based fashion empire, who is known for eschewing the limelight, took over from legendary US investor Warren Buffet as the world's 3rd-richest person.

Bloomberg's Billionaire Index, which ranks the world's 100 wealthiest individuals, showed that Ortega's fortune last year increased by €16.7 billion, or 38.6%, to €43.3 billion.

The main reason behind the increase in his wealth was the strong performance of Inditex in the stock market last year. The share price of the world's largest fashion retailer climbed 72.4% in 2012, making it the company with the largest market capitalization in Spain at €65.7 billion.

Ortega, who handed over the reins of the company to Pablo Isla in the summer of 2011, holds a 59% stake in Inditex.

Inditex's earnings increased as a result of its strong expansion overseas, particularly in Asia, which helped offset the weakness of its domestic market and other parts of Europe. The group has over 6,000 stores across the globe under a series of brands that include Zara, Massimo Dutti and Pull & Bear.

In the first 9 months of its financial year to end-October 2012, Inditex saw its sales climb by 17% to €11.362 billion, while its net profit increased 27% to €1.655 billion.

Inditex's share price continues to grow whilst Microsoft's remains at a standstill, meaning that Ortega could overtake Bill Gates as the 2nd-richest person in the world this year. The 57-year-old Gates's fortune rose by only 2.9% last year to €47.3 billion.

However, analysts question whether Inditex will be able to repeat the sterling performance of last year. "It's an amazing company that has done great, and the gains are quite justified given its performance," Bloomberg quoted Christodoulos Chaviaras, an analyst at Barclays in London, as saying. "Can they repeat that? It will be harder. A lot of the positive news is already reflected in the share price," he added.

According to Bloomberg, the world's richest man last year remained Mexican magnate Carlos Slim. The 72-year-old, who has heavy investments in telecommunications as well as banking and insurance, saw his fortune increase by 21%, or €10.1 billion, to €56.7 billion.