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Fri 14 Nov 2008 02:29 PM

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Mukesh Ambani tops new India rich list

Net worth of top 40 drops 60% as global financial crisis makes big impact, says Forbes magazine.

The fortunes of India's wealthiest have been cut by more than 60 percent due to the global financial crisis which has sharply pulled down stock markets, according to a new rich list.

Forbes magazine put Mukesh Ambani, chairman of India's largest private sector firm Reliance Industries, as the country's wealthiest man, with a net worth of $20.8 billion after losing $28.2 billion in the past year.

He overtakes London-based steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal who topped the list for the past four years. His net worth was $20.5 billion after dropping $30.5 billion on plunging steel prices.

The combined net worth of all 40 individuals on the list fell 60.3 percent to $139 billion from $351 billion, the magazine said.

Mukesh's younger brother Anil, who heads Reliance's telecom, power utilities and financial services businesses, was third on the list with total wealth of 12.5 billion dollars after losing 32.5 billion dollars.

"These are painful times for India's tycoons. The country's once soaring stock markets fell 48 percent in the 12 months, and the rupee depreciated 24 percent against the dollar," Forbes Asia said.

"All of this conspired to knock 60 percent off the combined fortunes of the nation's 40 wealthiest. Their total net worth fell 212 billion dollars, to $139 billion, down from $351 billion a year ago.

The list includes two women. Savitri Jindal, who heads the industrial OP Jindal group was 12th with a net worth of 2.9 billion dollars, while Indu Jain, chairwoman of media group Bennett, Coleman & Co, was 17th with $1.8 billion.

Six of last year's members had fallen out of the top 40 this year. They included United Breweries chief Vijay Mallya, who also owns premium airline Kingfisher. The magazine gave no figures on Mallya's wealth.

Others were nearly wiped out entirely, the magazine said. India's windpower entrepreneur Tulsi Tanti and his brothers lost 91 percent of their fortune, amid reports about problems with Suzlon's wind blades.

Of the 34 who retained their position, only one increased his wealth. Malvinder Singh, the chairman of generic drug firm Ranbaxy, jumped from 28th to 13th after he sold his 34 percent stake in the business to Japan's pharmaceutical house Daiichi Sankyo.

Malvinder and his brother Shivinder added $550 million to their combined wealth.