The 2010 edition of BRW magazine’s Rich 200 list is set to hit the streets on May 27 and after last year’s record fall in total wealth — down a staggering $25 billion in 12 months. We can expect to see our richest entrepreneurs fight back strongly.

From the middle of May 2009 to mid-May 2010, the ASX 200 rose about 16%. If the Rich 200 has tracked the index — and they typically outperform it — then the total wealth of those on the list is likely to rise to about $132 billion, up about $18 billion on last year. But, of course, the Rich 200 is about individual stories, so here are 10 predictions for some of our richest entrepreneurs:

Lowy will take the title of Australia’s richest person. The tussle for supremacy on the Rich 200 is likely to come down to a fight between three men — incumbent Anthony Pratt, Westfield supremo Frank Lowy and Fortescue Metals chief Andrew Forrest, who surged to the top of Forbes magazine’s list of Australia’s richest earlier this year. Unfortunately for Twiggy, Fortescue shares have since fallen, placing him just below Pratt and Lowy on about $4.4 billion, according to my calculations.

Originally I thought Pratt ($4.3 billion on last year’s list) would again edge out Lowy ($4.2 billion last year) but BRW‘s promo ads suggesting a new No.1 has forced me to change my tune. While the value of packaging companies has increased sharply in the past year (shares in Amcor, the closest listed competitor to Visy, are up 40%) the value of Lowy’s Westfield stake has risen by about $600 million over the past 12 months. That could put him just ahead of Pratt.

Andrew Forrest will post the biggest rise on the list. Don’t feel too sorry for Twiggy though — he is still likely to post the biggest rises on the Rich 200. Forrest has been on the rich list rollercoaster over the past few years. His fortune soared to $9.41 billion in 2008, then crashed to $2.38 billion last year and the global financial crisis hammered Fortescue’s share price. Expect Twiggy’s fortune this year to rise about $2 billion to $4.4 billion in this year’s edition. Note that share prices were likely to have been calculated a few weeks ago, before the announcement of the Resources Super Profits Tax saw about $740 million sliced off Twiggy’s fortune.

Clive Palmer could record the biggest fall. It will be extremely interesting to see how BRW treats his fortune, after his wealth increased from $1.5 billion to $3.42 billion last year. In late 2009, Palmer was being talked about as Australia’s new richest man, with a fortune estimated at as much as $12 billion. But a series of issues, including the shelving of his on-again-off-again float in Hong Kong and the introduction of the Resources Super Profits Tax, have raised questions about how rich Palmer really is. The problem is that so many of his projects remain undeveloped and difficult to value; Forbes didn’t even include Palmer on its billionaires list. I think BRW could well reduce Palmer’s valuation, and potentially by a hefty amount.

David Teoh will be Australia’s new dotcom superstar. The most stunning debut on the BRW Rich 200 will almost certainly come from the chief executive of internet service provider TPG. In the past 12 months the company’s share price has risen from just 30c to more than $2, valuing Teoh’s stake at $570 million. While Teoh is notoriously reclusive when it comes to talking to the media, he is seen as an aggressive entrepreneur determined to grow quickly. Last year TPG acquired Pipe Network in a $373 million deal, after merging TPG and SP Telemedia in April 2008. His arrival on the BRW Rich 200 will make him a clear winner of the title of Australia’s richest techie.

James Packer will make an impressive comeback. He’s had a tough year, with critics lining up to blast his business acumen, or lack thereof. His fortune fell from $6.1 billion to $3 billion, according to last year’s list, but I am expecting an impressive comeback, thanks to sharp increases in the share prices of Crown Limited and Consolidated Media, plus a string of asset sales. Expect his fortune to rise to about $3.8 billion on this year’s list.

Ken Talbot will be knocking on the door of the billionaire’s club. The mining baron faces a difficult year, with his trial on charges of making corrupt payments to a former Queensland government minister set to start in August. However, the founder and former chief executive of Macarthur Coal has made a series of canny investments (and sales) in the resources sector in the past 18 months, building an impressive portfolio of shares and a pile of cash he plans to invest in direct mine development. His fortune is likely to rise from $750 million to about $850 million on this year’s list.

Kerr Neilsen will lead the financial services fight back. Australia’s investment bankers were hammered during the past 18 months, but the fightback is starting. Neilsen, whose fortune fell from $2.1 billion in 2008 to $1.6 billion in 2009, should lead the charge, with his fortune likely to rise by about $250 million at least. The rebound in global markets should also help the reclusive David Hains boost his fortune.

Paul Ramsay will return to the billionaire’s club. There are two arms to the Ramsay empire: the health arm, represented by his private hospital operator Ramsay Health Care; and the media arm, represented by Prime Media. The fortunes of the two companies couldn’t be any different. While Prime Media’s share price has continued to fall over the past 12 months as its losses have mounted, Ramsay Health Care is going from strength to strength. Its shares are up by more than a third in the past 12 months, helping lift the value of Ramsay’s personal stake to more than $1 billion, up from about $760 million this time last year. That’s enough to take Ramsay back to the very top echelon.

Australia’s other Sun King will continue to fade. Chinese-based solar panel entrepreneur Shi Zhengrong crashed out of the billionaire’s club last year as the share price of his Suntech Power crashed. Unfortunately, the news hasn’t got any better in the past 12 months, with Suntech’s share price falling from $US15 to about $US10.

The richest person in Australia won’t make the Rich 200. Here’s one I know to be true. Earlier this year, Forbes named little-known American Blair Parry-Okeden as Australia’s richest person, with a fortune of $5.25 billion. Parry-Okeden, who lives in near anonymity in the NSW regional town of Scone, inherited a 25% stake in US media company Cox Enterprises from her mother Barbara Cox Anthony, who died in 2007. But as she is still a US citizen, she is not eligible for inclusion on this Rich 200.

Peter Fray

72 hours only. 50% off a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

Our two-for-one offer with The Atlantic was so popular we decided to bring it back.

But only for 72 hours.

Use the promo code ATLANTIC2020 and you’ll get 50% off a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year of digital access to The Atlantic (usually $70). That’s BOTH for just $129.

Hurry. Ends midnight this Thursday.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

Claim Now