Falling steel prices and re-privatization action from the government have lowered the wealth of Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, by almost 30% over the past 12 months, according to Forbes magazine.

Akhmetov, 39, whose biggest assets are in steel and mining sectors, is now worth $1.7 bln, down from $2.4 bln a year ago, Forbes reported Thursday in an annual survey of the world’s blnaires.

Akhmetov is running for a seat in Parliament at the March 26 election and is thought to be the key financial sponsor of the Regions Party, the front-runner in opinion polls.

Akhmetov’s managers and business partners dominate the list of the Regions Party and will probably end up in Parliament to become the biggest group that may challenge the government.

Two other Ukrainians made it on the list of the world’s blnaires, including Viktor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of former President Leonid Kuchma, and Serhiy Taruta.

The fortune of Pinchuk, 45, who owns steel pipe making companies, ferroalloy plant and television channels, fell to $1.2 bln from $1.3 bln a year ago, Forbes reported. Taruta, 51, who owns assets in steel and mining, boosted his wealth to $1.2 bln from $1 bln, according to the magazine.

In addition to a 30% drop in steel prices, Pinchuk and Akhmetov both received a major blow last year when the government had cancelled a controversial 2004 privatization of Ukraine’s largest steel mill Kryvorizhstal.

Akhmetov and Pinchuk paid $800 mln for 93% stake in Kryvorizhstal in June 2004, but the government in October 2005 re-sold the stake at $4.8 bln to Mittal Steel, the world’s No. 1 steelmaker.

Lakshmi Mittal, 56, the owner of Mittal Steel, is currently the world’s No. 5 richest man with assets worth at $23.5 bln, down from $25 bln a year ago, according to Forbes.

The magazine counted 793 blnaires around the globe, with a total net worth of $2.6 trillion, up 18% from last year largely because of strong stock performance, Forbes said.

Forbes ranked Akhmetov as the world’s No. 451 blnaire, while Pinchuk and Taruta shared No. 645.


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