The rich get richer

LONDON. The number of billionaires living in Britain has increased again from 68 to 75

in the last year, according to The Sunday Times’ latest Rich List published in April. It estimates that the country’s wealthiest 1,000 residents are now worth £412.8bn ($803.2bn), up £53bn since 2007. But the rate at which the wealthy are growing has fallen—from 20% in 2006/07 to 14.7% in 2007/08.

Significantly, 40 of the 75

billionaires resident in Britain are foreigners who have made London their home. These include the top two of

the list: Indian steelmaker, Lakshmi Mittal and the Russian oil magnate and Chelsea football club owner, Roman Abramovich (whose estimated fortunes come in at £27.7bn and £11.7bn respectively).

To date, such so-called “non-domiciles” have benefited from Britain’s favourable tax regime and have yet to be spooked by the prospect of a proposed £30,000 charge to live in the country. However, The Sunday Times found that changes to the capital gains tax regime (which has increased taxes on asset gains that arise in the UK, including art, from 10% to 18%) saw a “flood of sales or transfers” from people such as the Sainsbury supermarket family prior to the new tax year.

The year’s biggest loser was David Khalili, the Jewish-Iranian property magnate who owns a 20,000-piece Islamic art collection. Mr Khalili’s net worth fell £3.3bn to £2.5bn ($4.8bn, taking him from the 5th to the 21st slot), largely because of a revaluation of his art collection. Last year The Sunday Times had valued this at a whopping £4.5bn ($8.8bn). However, dealers canvassed by The Art Newspaper believed this to be a gross over valuation. The new valuation—at £2bn ($3.9m)—is still thought by some to be overly generous: one dealer said that, even though the Islamic art market is “hotter than ever…£2bn is still high”. A £1bn valuation is believed more likely. Meanwhile, The Sunday Times appears to have underestimated the value of Damien Hirst’s holdings which it puts at

£200m ($389m, 2007: £130m), see right.

Mohammed Mahdi Al-Tajir, the mineral water tycoon

who recently partnered with Bonhams on its sales in Dubai, has maintained his £2.2bn ($4.3bn) fortune, according to the list.

Melanie Gerlis

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