Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Scrap Metal Trader Who Made [Pounds Sterling]500m in a Matter of Weeks; Larger Than Life: Anil Agarwal of Mining Group Vedanta Resources Has Seen His Shares Rise Eightfold in Four Years

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Scrap Metal Trader Who Made [Pounds Sterling]500m in a Matter of Weeks; Larger Than Life: Anil Agarwal of Mining Group Vedanta Resources Has Seen His Shares Rise Eightfold in Four Years

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS BLACKHURST

READING The Sunday Times Rich List is to be offered a glimpse intoanother world. When the ranking first startedcourtesy of my friend Philip Beresfordit did not seem so disconnected. The Queen was No 1, followed by the Duke ofWestminster and Lord Sainsbury.

Other names near the top included Moores, Vestey, Goldsmith, Maxwell, Swire,Cowdray, Cayzer, Portman and Buccleuch. There were nine billionaires in total.

This year, Lakshmi Mittal heads the survey. The Duke of Westminster is stillthere but he's been joined by Roman Abramovich, the Hindujas, Alisher Usmanov,and Ernesto Bertarelli. Leonard Blavatnik is up there, as are Vladimir Kim, LevLeviev and Anil Agarwal. In all, there are 74 billionaires.

Previously, there was a sense of the nation's high-rollers staying withintouching distance. Many of them had inherited their wealth and were minding itfor future generations. They were public figures, well-known, with assets thatwere easily identifiable.

Today, that proximity has gone. The Mittals are worth [pounds sterling]27.7 billion. Apart froma share in Queens Park Rangersand that is only recentI cannot think, off the top of my head, of anything they own. Likewise,Abramovich. I know Chelsea belongs to him, but tell me anything else he has.

More to the point, where are his good works? With the new rich, there isseparationthey may live here but there is a feeling their attachment could easily betemporary. The UK, and with it London, is somewhere they just happen to dotheir business. They don't have roots here, they're not major UK employerstheir bases, and with them, their plans and ideas, lie elsewhere.

It's also the pace at which they are adding to their fortunes that gives theexercise an unreal air. Look at Agarwal.

According to the list, the founder and chairman of Vedanta Resources ownsshares worth [pounds sterling]2.93 billion. That valuation, says Beresford, was calculated lastmonth. Since then, his stake in Vedanta has risen to [pounds sterling]3.6 billion. In a fewweeks, on paper, he has made more than [pounds sterling]500 million. By doing what? By sittingback and watching this resourcehungry, overcrowded planet of ours continue todrive up the price of its increasingly precious commodities.

It is these "supercharged rich" as opposed to the mere super-rich, saysBeresford, that have largely been responsible for this year's 14.7% rise in thewealth of the first 1000, taking the tally to [pounds sterling]413 billion. Nobody can keep up.The speed and relative ease with which they can generate sums that are beyondthe comprehension of the rest of us has propelled them into a different sphere.

Foreign, shy of publicity, devoid of personality that we can relate to, theyoperate in a parallel spaceone that we're aware of but rarely touches us (except that we pay for theirproducts).

I would prefer it if the Rich List contained more home-grown products becauseit would indicate an underlying healthy, vibrant society. Before politiciansrush to fete the foreigners in its upper reaches, they should ask, what does itreally show? We are nowhere near achieving the enterprise-mad economy thisGovernment made its goal when it was elected more than 10 years ago. Sunday'slist is proof of that.

Agarwal floated Vedanta on the London stock market in 2003. It's a constituentof the FTSE 100, but it might as well be in Timbuktu for all its resonancehere. It's not alone, of course. In the past few years, the leading index hasbecome a haven for all manner of overseas businessesso much so that its historical claim to represent the best of UK Plc ismeaningless. So Vedanta is spending [pounds sterling]2.5 billionnot in these islands but on an aluminium plant in West Bengal.

Agarwal is also committing [pounds sterling]500 million of his own money to build a newuniversitynot in Britain, but in Orissa, also in India. …

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