RUSSIA’S 10 wealthiest people have more than $140 billion (€106.6 billion) between them, according to an estimate by Forbes magazine.

Arsenal investor tops Russian rich list

The Forbes list is topped by steel and telecoms tycoon Alisher Usmanov, thanks to his nose for hot internet stocks and the declining wealth of well-heeled peers.

Mr Usmanov (58) became Russia’s richest citizen with a net worth of $18.1 billion, up by $400 million from last year.

He has a stake in social network, Facebook as well as in Zynga and Groupon, through his investment firm DST Global.

“Usmanov is Russia’s richest citizen for the first time. The gap may widen when Facebook goes public,” Forbes said.

Facebook is expected to conduct one of the most hotly anticipated US initial public offerings this year.

the bulk of Uzbekistan-born Mr Usmanov’s wealth however is underground, through his control of Metalloinvest, Russia’s largest iron-ore miner.

The group, which also owns steel mills in Russia and the United Arab Emirates, received a boost in 2011 when it refinanced its debt, according to Forbes.

Mr Usmanov also has a minority stake in Russian mobile operator MegaFon, where he may soon seek majority control.

MegaFon has signed a $2 billion syndicated loan with three international lenders as it raises funds to buy back a one-quarter stake owned by businessman Mikhail Fridman.

Sources say the stake sale could be a prelude to a bid by Mr Usmanov to take control. He also owns the biggest Russian business daily, Kommersant, and has a stake in British football club Arsenal.

Mr Usmanov grabbed the lead from Vladimir Lisin, owner of Russia’s fourth-largest steelmaker, NLMK, whose

fortune declined by $8 billion to $15.9 billion. Mr Lisin’s diminishing wealth was part of a trend as the net worth of most of Russia’s top-10 billionaires fell.

The price of shares in their assets slid on global economic concerns and took a further hit on concerns over Russia’s political stability before Vladimir Putin’s election as president in March.

Mr Usmanov and Leonid Mikhelson, the owner of Russia’s largest independent gas producer, Novatek, were the only top-10 businessmen whose net worth gained last year.

The number of dollar- denominated billionaires in Russia fell by five to 96 last year, while the aggregate wealth of the top-20 businessmen was $446 billion, down from $499 billion.

Below is the net worth of the top-10 Russian billionaires, according to Forbes (as of February 14th, 2012):

1. Alisher Usmanov, $18.1 billion (previously $17.7 billion): (sector) steel, telecoms, investments.

2. Vladimir Lisin, $15.9 billion ($24 billion): steel, transport.

3. Alexei Mordashov, $15.3 billion ($18.5 billion): steel, investments.

4. Vladimir Potanin, $14.5 billion ($17.8 billion): metals.

5. Vagit Alekperov, $13.5 billion ($13.9 billion): oil.

6. Mikhail Fridman, $13.4 billion ($15.1 billion): oil, banking, telecoms.

7. Mikhail Prokhorov, $13.2 billion ($18 billion): investments.

8. Viktor Vekselberg, $12.4 billion ($13 billion): oil, metals.

9. Roman Abramovich, $12.1 billion ($13.4 billion): steel, investments.

10. Leonid Mikhelson, $11.9 billion ($9.1 billion): gas, chemicals. – (Reuters)