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Wealth wipeout reshapes ranks of world's richest people

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Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos shed US$5.6 billion and Berkshire Hathaway Inc's Warren Buffett lost US$5.3 billion.

[LONDON] The wealth destruction caused by Monday's market collapse is reshaping the ranks of the world's richest people.

Wildcatter Harold Hamm's fortune plunged by almost half to US$2.4 billion by the end of the day, a drop that bumped him from the 500-member Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Fellow oil magnate Jeff Hildebrand also fell off the ranking while Lukoil PJSC executives Leonid Fedun and Vagit Alekperov lost a combined US$5 billion.

While energy moguls sustained the biggest shellacking in percentage terms, losses cascaded across industries and continents.

India's Mukesh Ambani, who began the morning as Asia's richest person, lost US$5.8 billion, ceding the title to Jack Ma, who lost a comparatively modest US$1.1 billion. Frenchman Bernard Arnault, chairman of luxury-goods giant LVMH, was Europe's biggest decliner with a US$4.4 billion drop. Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos shed US$5.6 billion and Berkshire Hathaway Inc's Warren Buffett lost US$5.3 billion. Carnival Corp chairman Micky Arison's stake in the beleaguered cruise line operator slid almost 20 per cent to US$2 billion.

All told, the world's 500 richest people lost a combined US$238.5 billion on Monday. That's the biggest daily plunge since the index began tracking the number in October 2016. The losses include declines in publicly traded assets and estimated drops in the values of private companies - as is the case with Mr Hildebrand's Hilcorp Energy - that Bloomberg calculates using public peers. More than a half-trillion dollars has been erased from the combined fortunes of the top 500 so far in 2020.

"The near-term market focus is likely to remain on the virus's spread across Europe and the U., and on stress in the financial markets," Mark Haefele, UBS Group AG's chief investment officer of global wealth management, said in a note to investors.

SPREADING VIRUS

US stocks ended the day down more than 7.5 per cent in the worst day on Wall Street since the financial crisis as investors absorbed the prospect of an oil price war triggered by the breakup of the Opec+ (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) alliance and mounting concerns about how the spreading coronavirus will affect the global economy.

While 92 per cent of the index entrants lost money on Monday, there were a few winners.

China's Qin Yinglin added US$536 million to his net worth as shares of his Muyuan Foodstuff Co rose 4.3 per cent. Li Xiting, chairman of Chinese medical equipment maker Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics, gained US$143 million, bringing his net worth to US$13.7 billion.

Two billionaires took to Twitter to urge calm amid the panic. Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio advised to "look for the opportunities" and former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein stressed the fundamental strength of the US economy.

"Fear" may drive further losses in markets, Mr Blankfein said, "but expect quick recovery when health threat recedes".

BLOOMBERG