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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
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SA's rich play safe

By unknown | Jan 26, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Madoda Milazi

Madoda Milazi

Adolf Merckle, a 74-year-old German billionaire committed suicide early this month by throwing himself in front of a moving train after losing the bulk of his fortune in the stock market.

Merckle is one of many rich investors in the US and Europe who have lost money in the financial markets meltdown.

International analysts were quoted in the US media as saying that the crisis had so far had little effect on the wealth management industry, which managed about $37,2trillion in assets worldwide. These ranged from small firms to the private banking divisions of large wealth managers like UBS, Credit Suisse and Citigroup.

Christopher Gilmour, an analyst with Absa Investments, said South Africa's rich, who include the likes of Nicky Oppenheimer, Johann Rupert and Patrice Motsepe, were not seriously affected as they did not invest in risky assets.

"These investors tend to invest in their own businesses first which tends to make investment in riskier areas less prevalent. In other words, the bulk of their investments tend to be in companies that they control," said Gilmour.

He said that, however, did not preclude investment entirely in riskier areas, though it was not as high profile in South Africa as it was overseas.

"The very wealthy undoubtedly take risks in South Africa but it tends to be in their own personal capacities and thus generally hidden from the public eye.

"Are they hit worse than ordinary investors - in terms of the sheer quantum of money that they can potentially lose? Yes of course. But they usually still have lots of money left, which might not be the case for the smaller investor," said Gilmour.

Tebogo Molefi, analyst at Afri Global consulting services, shared Gilmour's sentiment, saying the rich were not affected more than small investors "except when it comes to the amounts invested".

Graydon Morris, director of Sterling Private Wealth, said high-net worth investors who had been affected were those who held concentrated investments in single businesses. "Often this is as a result of emotional attachment to the business, often founded by their ancestors," said Morris.


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