Europe’s richest man gains $18b amid virus seesaw

Europe’s richest man gains $18b amid virus seesaw

Devon Pendleton and Ben Stupples

Paris | Luxury-goods mogul Bernard Arnault has been hard hit by the spread of the coronavirus, losing more financially than anyone else in the world.

He’s directly enlisted his conglomerate – which controls Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton – in the battle against the virus by financing the delivery of millions of medical masks to France from Chinese suppliers and converting a Dior perfume factory outside Orleans into a producer of hand sanitiser.

On Tuesday, he got some financial relief as global stocks jumped on optimism a massive US stimulus package is on its way. Shares of Christian Dior and LVMH surged and his fortune increased $US11.3 billion ($18.8 billion) on the day, the biggest trading-driven gain in the history of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Arnault, whose net worth climbed more last year than anyone else on the 500-member index, is still down $US35.2 billion so far in 2020 as the pandemic has spread.

The swings in Arnault’s fortune underscore the dramatic volatility of global markets, driven by virus panic and alternating hope and pessimism for government intervention. After four days of declines, the Dow Jones Industrial Average posted its biggest advance since 1933 on Tuesday.

Warren Buffett was the next-biggest gainer on the index, rising $US6.5 billion, while Spain’s Amancio Ortega, the titan behind the Zara fast-fashion brand, added $US5.9 billion. Still, overall the world’s 500 richest people have lost more than $US1 trillion since the start of the year.

Shares in LVMH continued climbing on Wednesday morning amid broader European gains, rising as much as 4.9 per cent in the morning in Paris.

Arnault, Europe’s richest person, holds stakes in Paris-based LVMH and Christian Dior, the fashion house founded three years before his birth in 1949. He also owns shares in Paris-based luxury-goods maker Hermes International and grocery chain Carrefour.

Arnault entered the luxury-goods market in 1984 by acquiring a textile group that owned Christian Dior. Four years later, he sold the company’s other businesses and used the proceeds to take control of LVMH. His art collection of modern and contemporary paintings includes pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.


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