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May 24, 2012

Two months, $10b: Gina Rinehart’s big leap

We got our prediction for the top end of the BRW Rich List wrong. It wasn't Gina Rinehart on top with daylight second -- it was daylight, twilight, moonlight and everything in between.

Well, I got my prediction for the top end of the BRW Rich 200 wrong. I tipped it would be Gina Rinehart on top with daylight second. In the end it was Rinehart first with daylight, twilight, moonlight and everything in between running second.

According to BRW, Rinehart’s wealth has soared by an incredible $18.7 billion in the space of one year to a staggering $29.17 billion. At that level, the magazine says, the queen of iron ore becomes the richest woman in the world, streaking ahead of Wal-Mart heir Christy Walton, who was valued by Forbes in March at $US25.3 billion.

Of course, that sort of ignores the fact that Forbes valued Rinehart at $US18 billion on the same global billionaire’s list and leads to a very good question: how did Rinehart’s wealth climb by more than $11 billion in the space of two months?

As a former editor of the BRW Rich 200 list and someone who has worked with Forbes on their valuations, I can say that Forbes does take a very conservative approach when it comes to assessing private assets and particularly undeveloped assets. BRW’s valuation of Rinehart appears to be somewhat aggressive, although to its credit the magazine has done a good job of laying out its reasoning.

BRW points to a clearer valuation of Rinehart’s Roy Hill 1 project, which was valued at $12.8 billion when South Korean and Japanese steel groups took a 30% stake. That would leave Gina with a stake of $8.96 billion.

It then values her stake in the Hope Downs 1 mine, which is operated by Rio Tinto. Based on an iron ore price of $US144.73 and using a multiple of 10.2, it ascribes a value of $9.7 billion to Rinehart’s stake in this operation. It values the Hope Downs IV mine, set to come into production in 2013, using the same assumptions, and gets a value of $3.1 billion.

That takes the valuation to $21.76 billion. The rest comes from adding up Rinehart’s royalty stream from Hamersley Iron, her stake in the Nicholas Downs manganese project and two undeveloped coal projects in Queensland, which have a notional joint venture value of $8 billion. There’s also a little bit of money for Rinehart’s Fairfax and Ten Network stakes.

The BRW valuation is completely reasonable and putting a price on undeveloped assets always requires educated estimates. But to me it does feel a bit “glass half full”.

The iron ore price used of $US144 a tonne does jar somewhat with the latest statements from BHP Billiton chief Marius Kloppers that received iron ore prices had fallen from a peak of $US180 last year to around $US135. Last week’s West Australian state budget assumes iron ore prices will fall to $US115.20 a tonne in 2012-13 and $US102.90 a tonne in the following year.

Just as there doesn’t appear to have been much discount built in for this cloudy outlook, there doesn’t seem to have been any discount applied for the fact that Rinehart has just handed her children the right to grab a 25% stake in her company, Hancock Prospecting.

While there is some doubt as to when and if the kids will take control of their shares — Rinehart has warned they will face huge tax bills if they do and they are unable to sell them to anyone outside the Rinehart family — you could argue that a more conservative valuation would need to take this into account.

But if BRW’s $29 billion valuation is right, then Rinehart’s four children notionally control a stake in the business worth more than $7 billion. They won’t give up their legal battle easily and they could work towards a deal where they settle or sell out to Gina herself.

Of course, while you can make an argument that the $29 billion valuation for Rinehart is too high, it’s also possible to argue it’s too low.

If China’s growth continues; if the resources boom continues for another 20 years; if iron ore prices remain strong; if it should happen that Rinehart’s projects can be developed successfully; if Gina can sort out her battle with her kids … it’s possible to make a case for a valuation of $100 billion or more. There are lot of assumptions to be made, but with a bit of creativity it is possible.

And in the end, there are no wrong answers here. Private assets and particularly undeveloped mining assets are very difficult to value. BRW has been more aggressive in its assumptions than in previous years, but Rinehart’s is a fortune that has undergone incredible change in a very short space of time.

Whether it’s $20 billion or $29 billion matters little. This is a fortune that now towers far above anything we’ve seen in Australia and will for decades to come.

*This article was originally published at SmartCompany

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25 comments

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25 thoughts on “Two months, $10b: Gina Rinehart’s big leap

  1. Bill Hilliger

    Is that the same Gina that had a problem with Austrlaian taxation changes to spread mining wealth more equitably?

  2. Bill Hilliger

    correction Australian

  3. DF

    That’s the one. The same one who wants to introduce cheaper migrant labour on temporary visas to maintain profitability.

    Funniest comment was by BRW editor Kate Mills who, discussing the growth in personal wealth of various Australians, was quoted in The Age as saying: ”She (Gina) could have done nothing, she could have taken the money and lived a good and happy life. We celebrate the fact that she didn’t.”

    No indeed.

  4. Bill Hilliger

    @DF – oh! I thought I was being delusional. And yes, come to think of it cheaper labour = more profits; and more profits = more wealth. Gina has it all and will one day just buy WA its contents complete with Liberal polititians to do her bidding. Vesty’s (Lord Vestey) had a proposal to buy the NT in the 1900’s lock stock and barrel.

  5. DF

    Gina has all that a consumerist society would want but I don’t think that she has it “all”, unless by “all” you mean such a dysfunctional relationship with her family that she is prepared to litigate against her own children over money, which, apart from her youngest daughter, seems to be the only aspect of her life with which she has a meaningful relationship these days. If this is having it “all”, I’m glad I’m so impoverished that my wife and children all remain close with each other and with me.

  6. Bill Hilliger

    @GF I take your point on the “all.” I meant “all” in a general non specific manner. I would sooner be wealthy and miserable, than poor and miserable. Wealthy and unhealthy – being able to afford the best medical and dental; than poor and unhealthy, waiting in a long line at public hospital, and waiting years for dental treatment, etc. However, I would not need all Gina’s purported wealth then show off about it through the media’s adoring “reporter groupies” and magazines. Imagine, if ever there was a 20 largest tax paying individuals list; how many names from the rich list would be on it? Methinks not many, if any at all.

  7. DF

    Bill
    Can you imagine how satisfying it would be to play God with the money – to go around the needy agencies and actually shower them with the readies? I mean, how much do you and your kids need? I understand what Bill and Melinda Gates get off on when I see them doing good works, rather than being resentful and bitter about taxes and sharing their assets within the “commonwealth”. The examples set to us by the rich in Australia belie all the crap we are fed about “mateship”, “pulling together” etc. The behaviour of the rich sends the message that it’s every man/woman for him/herself and the rest of you can go and get stuffed. They say they believe in Australia and its values but they don’t – they only believe in themselves. To my mind, they have no commitment to their country or their compatriots, and their relationship with the ideas of charity and compassion for others is non-existent. They are just nasty, greedy, selfish and emotionally disabled.

  8. AR

    Surely every woman, let alone mother, in Oz looks at Gina in horror, thinking ”these are your children – what is wrong with you?”.

  9. Aaron F

    It really would be embarrassing to be that wealthy yet that determined not to pay more (well have the company that you own pay more) tax. Tax is money that goes towards the community. Helps the less fortunate (ie the opposite end of the scale of those that are born into hundreds of millions). Helps build more roads, build more hospitals, puts more money into education. YOU WILL STILL BE OSCENELY WEALTHY AFTER THE TAX! Perhaps they should consider spending time with the Smith Family or Salvation Army and see families who have to make daily decisions on whether to heat the house for their sick child or put food on the table that day.

    Of course the mining tax is always demonised by saying it will cost jobs. Exactly what jobs are they talking about. Are they saying they currently employ people for no reason just because they like giving away money and if the tax comes in they will no longer be able to afford employing people out of the goodness of their hearts? Are they saying digging stuff out of the ground just won’t be worth it anymore? Apparently Norway taxes its mining companies 80%, and there are still plenty of companies prepared to digg the stuff up for the 20%. 20% of billions is still a lot of money. And because of this Norway can afford a lot more things for the community.

    In fact it should be a broad super profits tax, including banks. Yes Australia needs strong banks to weather financial turmoil. Yes money (for the banks to then lend) used to cost less than what it does now. But they don’t need to make a record profit every 6 months. I would feel confident in the banks if record profits came around every three or four years. And when they talk about interest rates and the cost of money, they need to include profit margins as well. Cost of money does not directly equal interest rates. Cost of money and profit aimed for = interest rates. If cost of money goes up, but the banks accepted very good profits (down slightly from record profits), interest rates could be much lower than what they currently are.