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Richest Swiss is a Swede

Winners and losers: Ingvar Kamprad (left) tops the list, while Martin Ebner is gone from the rankings

(Keystone)

Switzerland's richest man is a Swede, Ingvar Kamprad, founder of the Ikea furniture chain, according to the Bilanz business magazine.

The 300 richest Swiss residents have seen their overall fortune shrink by SFr50 billion ($33.6 billion). One of the biggest losers was Martin Ebner.

The magazine's annual ranking of the country's rich reveals that turbulent stock markets and the recession have seen the balance of power shift considerably.

Kamprad, whose business remains a private company, has suffered less amid the current economic climate.

After finishing last year in third position, he rose to top spot with an estimated wealth of between SFr14-15 billion. The 76-year-old Swede has lived near Lausanne for the last 25 years.

Another Swedish family takes second place on the list, the Rausings of Tetra Pak fame, with over SFr13 billion to their name. The packaging producers also finished in second place last year.

The first native Swiss on the list, the controlling families of the Roche pharmaceutical group, the Oeris and Hoffmanns, climbed up one spot from last year. Their fortune remains unchanged at around SFr10 billion.

Shares pummelled

Their improved position owes more to the fall of Ernesto Bertarelli, the head of the Serono biotechnology concern, who slipped to fourth place in the rankings with SFr7-8 billion to his name.

Bertarelli's drop down the list owes much to a decline in the value of his group's shares. Bilanz reckons he lost SFr6 billion over the last year.

The biotechnology billionaire finds himself in a similar position to many others on the list. Those whose wealth is tied up in shares often lost ground, while others like Kamprad, whose assets climbed by at least SFr2 billion, were clear winners.

Overall, the combined wealth of the top 300 fell to SFr340 billion - the second year in succession that it has fallen. Still, the wealthiest people in the land have little to worry about with an average of SFr1.1 billion to their name.

The top ten between them have a global fortune of SFr68 billion.

Twenty-six names fell off the list this year, the most prominent of them being the embattled financier, Martin Ebner. The banker saw his SFr4-5 billion fortune melt away to nothing.

Ebner wasn't the only victim of the losses of his BZ Group. Four of his partners also took a hit and dropped off the list as well.

Rich and famous

The rankings also contain a few well-known names. The Swiss populist politician and owner of Ems-Chemie, Christoph Blocher, appears at number 30 on the list, with an estimated fortune of at least SFr2 billion.

Watchmaker Nicolas Hayek of Swatch fame has up to SFr2 billion in assets.

Formula One driver Michael Schumacher has more than SFr600 million to his name, but he still lags in the slipstream of the sport's leading light, Bernie Ecclestone, whose wealth is estimated at SFr5 billion.

Singers also feature among the ranks of the truly wealthy. Shania Twain, Charles Aznavour and Phil Collins have a few hundred million francs stashed in their accounts.

And Geneva-based Yeslam BinLadin, the half-brother of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, has a personal fortune of somewhere between SFr100 and 200 million.

The Lake Geneva region has the highest number of super rich in Switzerland. Around 80 of them live in Geneva itself or in canton Vaud, while 68 others live in the Zurich area.

swissinfo

Key facts

Switzerland's richest 300 have a global wealth of SFr340 billion - down SFr50 billion on 2001.
The richest Swiss resident is Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad with SFr14 billion.
One of this year's biggest losers is Ernesto Bertarelli, down from first place to fourth.
Banker Martin Ebner has disappeared from the list altogether after massive stock market losses.

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