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Richest Swiss get richer still

(Keystone)

The 300 wealthiest Swiss are getting even richer, according to a survey published on Tuesday by a leading business magazine.

Bilanz's annual survey of the country's richest citizens found that the majority had benefited from a stock-market upturn and strong performance in the luxury-goods sector.

Magazine editor Stefan Lüscher told swissinfo that the top 300 Swiss – including foreign residents who have made their home in Switzerland – were collectively worth SFr400 billion ($306 billion).

"The most impressive thing for me is that the 300 richest Swiss have got SFr31 billion richer since our last survey," said Lüscher.

"That's because this year everything fitted together. The stock market has performed well and the housing market is strong – this is significant because most of the wealthy have large houses and grounds."

Lüscher adds that another factor is the strength of the luxury-goods industry. According to Bilanz, one in six people on the list is involved in this sector.

Top Swede

There was no change right at the top of the chart: Ingvar Kamprad, the famously frugal founder of Swedish home-furnishings firm Ikea, is estimated to be worth up to SFr21 billion.

"Kamprad has made the most money [this year], increasing his wealth by SFr5 billion. His business continues to perform well and the value of the Ikea brand has increased," said Lüscher.

Bilanz admits its survey is not an exact science, but the researchers who compile the annual list claim it is as accurate as it can be and is based on a detailed examination of available facts and figures.

"We are very careful about how we calculate the wealth of individuals," said Lüscher, pointing to the example of the league-table silver medallists, the Oeri and Hoffmann families who control the Basel-based Roche pharmaceutical group.

Lüscher believes Roche's cross-town rival Novartis would pay over the odds to buy out the controlling families.

"If they sell their shares [in Roche] now they would get more than the SFr15 billion they are worth, because [Novartis CEO Daniel] Vasella would pay a lot more than that.

"But we don't factor this in because that would be playing a dangerous game. We just say that their stock is worth around SFr15 billion."

Foreigners

Nearly half of those who made it onto the list are foreign residents, although one famous foreigner whose name appeared in previous years is no longer to be seen.

Mohammed Al-Fayed, the billionaire boss of British department store Harrods, has abandoned his home on the shores of Lake Geneva and taken up residence in Monaco.

The Latsis family of bankers from canton Geneva, with a combined wealth of SFr9.5 billion, have the honour of being the only new top-ten entry.

As for the biggest loser, Lüscher says it has been a "real problem" to identify those whose fortunes are in decline.

"It sounds amazing, but nobody has really lost this year. It was difficult to find people whose personal fortunes are in decline. I've been doing this list for a long time now and I've never seen anything like it," he said.

"Curt Engelhorn lost SFr2 billion, so you could call him the biggest loser.

"But he didn't really lose anything. He just gave each of his five children SFr400 million, telling them that it was time they learnt how to handle money."

swissinfo, Ramsey Zarifeh

Key facts

Top of the Bilanz table:

1st: Ingvar Kamprad (worth SFr20-21 billion)
2nd: Oeri and Hoffmann families (worth SFr15-16 billion)
Joint 3rd: Ernesto Bertarelli, Brenninkmeijer family, Latsis family (each worth SFr9.5 billion)
22 names appear on the list for the first time – the individuals or families concerned have a combined wealth of SFr12.1 billion.
Around half of those who appear on the list are foreigners who have made their home in Switzerland.

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