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British billionaires lose big in rich list

British-based steel magnate Lakshi Mittal leads the list of the country’s billionaires who’ve lost the most in the economic downturn, seeing his wealth plummet 61%, a survey shows.

As the number of billionaires in the United Kingdom fell by more than 40% to 43 from 75 in a year, Mittal’s fortune slumped by some £17 billion, the Sunday Times newspaper reported in an annual survey on Saturday.

The country’s richest 1,000 lost a total of £155 billion last year, with steel and mining magnates like Mittal among the worst hit, the Sunday Times Rich List 2009 showed. Despite that, Mittal retained his place as the country’s richest man with an estimated fortune of £10.8 billion.

Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea football club owner, who has steel and other investment interests, remained second with £7 billion, down more than 40%. The richest British-born billionaire, the Duke of Westminster, remained third on the list, with his largely property-based portfolio falling by a modest 7% to £6.5 billion.

An influx of European and American bargain hunters, taking advantage of a weakened pound, helped boost the income of some retailers including Mohamed al-Fayed, owner of the luxury London store Harrods. His estimated fortune rose by 17% to £650 million.

At the other end of the shopping experience, Ken Morrison, president of the supermarket Morrisons, saw his fortune rise 11% to £1.6 billion. Online betting also benefited, with Peter and Denise Coates, owners of the online sports betting Web site Bet365, seeing their wealth rise by 33% to £400 million.

Collectively, the 1,000 multi-millionaires in the list saw their wealth fall by 37%. They are worth £258 billion, down from last year’s record total of £413 billion.

The annual list is based on identifiable wealth, including land, property and other items such as art, racehorses or significant shares in publicly quoted companies, but does not include bank accounts. The full list of the richest 1,000 in Britain is released on Sunday. (Reuters)