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Economy

French billionaires rise to 67 despite economic crisis

media LVMH boss Bernard Arnault with actors Sean Penn and Charlize Theron at the Dior fashion show in Paris this week Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

France’s rich are getting richer, despite the crisis. The country now has 67 billionaires and the richest 500 people are worth a massive 390 billion euros, according to a leading business magazine.

Thomas Piketty, whose best-seller Capital in the 21st Century points to growing inequality across the world, may well be right, comments the far-from-radical French business magazine Challenges.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

While the French economy struggled to return to growth and unemployment remained at 10 per cent, the number of billionaires in France grew last year from 55 to 67, Challenges found in its annual look at the country’s wealthiest citizens.

The total assets of the top 500 went up, too – by 15 per cent to 390 billion euros.

The survey includes individuals and families and family businesses, such as Europe’s top supplier of scaffolding and cement-mixers Altrad, whose founder Mohed Altrad is in at number 61 with a billion euros.

The top four in the list are the same as last year and three of them are in luxury goods:

  • Bernard Arnault of LVMH – 27 billion euros;
  • Liliane Bettencourt and family of l’Oreal – 26 billion euros;
  • Gérard Mulliez and family of Auchan – 20 billion euros;
  • Axel Dumas and family of Hermès and 17 billion euros.

Challenges says that part of the wealth boom is due to central banks’ policies of providing cheap credit in an effort to revive investment.

Much of that money is put into already-existing companies and real estate but the policy has also led to a major rise in mergers and company takeovers.

That in turn has led the profits from sales being invested elsewhere, notably in hotels, according to Challenges, in order to avoid wealth tax, applicable to share income but not to income derived from participating in the management of a company.
 

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