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Forbes billionaire list: Trump loses $1bn as elite club gets 233 new members

Post-US election boom in stock markets and continued rise in oil price help bring global total of billionaires to nearly 2,300 individuals

US president Donald Trumps fortune has fallen by about $1bn to $3.5bn over the past year, as measured by Forbes magazine in its annual list of the worlds billionaires.

However, overall it has been a good 12 months for the worlds wealthiest individuals, with a record 233 moving into the billionaire bracket, taking the global number of people with nine-zero fortunes to 2,043 the most in the 31-year history of the list.

The billionaires in Forbes list are worth a combined $7.67tn (6.18tn) more than three times the UKs annual gross domestic product (GDP).

Kerry Dolan, co-editor of the Forbes billionaires list, published on Monday, said the gains are mostly the result of booming stock markets and the rising price of oil over the past 12 months.

Number of billionaires

Global markets have hit record highs due to the so-called Trump bump following Trumps election, with the Dow Jones soaring above 20,000 points for the first time and the UKs FTSE 100 closing at a record 7,415 points last week.

The fall in Trumps net worth is due to a drop in the value of office space in Midtown Manhattan, where the president owns about 10 buildings. Forbes said Trump had fallen from the worlds 324th-richest person to 544th.

Forty percent of Donald Trumps fortune is tied up in Trump Tower and eight buildings within one mile of it, Forbes said. Lately, the neighbourhood has been struggling (relatively speaking).

Trump has refused to publish his tax returns to show the true scale of his wealth, but during the campaign he claimed he was worth in excess of $10bn.

Dolan said that in previous years the real estate tycoon had challenged Forbes for underestimating his fortune. We contact everyone we can to give them the opportunity for feedback. Over the last 31 years we have been compiling this list Trump has given us a lot of feedback, believe me, You guys are too low I am worth far more than you say, she said. He didnt call back to dispute our estimate. I would hope that running the country is more important to him right now than Forbess value of his net worth.

The richest person in the world remains Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who saw his fortune grow by $11bn to $86bn. He is followed by investor Warren Buffett, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who was this years biggest gainer with a $27.6bn increase in his fortune to $72.8bn.

Top 10 richest

The US accounts for the biggest population of billionaires with 565, up 25 on last year. But China is catching up with 319 billionaires, and a further 68 if Hong Kong and Macau are included. Germany is third with 114 billionaires.

The number of UK billionaires increased from 50 to 54, with new entrants including Philip Day, the man behind Edinburgh Woollen Mill, and Simon Nixon, the co-founder of moneysupermarket.com.

The richest people in the UK are the Hinduja family, who control a conglomerate of businesses including cars and banks and are worth $15.4bn. Property and internet investors David and Simon Reuben come second with a $15.3bn fortune. The third richest, and among the biggest gainer, is Jim Ratcliffe the founder and chairman of chemicals group Ineos.

UK richest

Among the biggest British losers is Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley whose fortune dropped by 25% to $2.6bn. His wealth, which is largely held in Sports Direct shares, has roughly halved over the past two years as shares collapsed following the Guardian expos of Victorian workhouse-style conditions in its distribution warehouses.

Sir Philip Green and his wife, Tina, the owners of Arcadia, which owns Topshop and once owned BHS, also lost just over $1bn, with their fortune slumping to $4.8bn. They fell more than 100 places to 339th.

Oxfam said the creation of so many new billionaires in one year was a sign of economic sickness rather than health.

Our warped economic model leads to more unequal societies that trap millions of people in poverty – it allows an elite group to accrue extreme wealth while one in nine people go to bed hungry every night, Max Lawson, Oxfams head of inequality policy, said. We need to build a more human economy where the super-rich pay their fair share of tax, workers earn a living wage, and governments invest in decent healthcare and education to give everyone a good start in life.

The number of women on the list increased to 227, from 202 in 2016. A record 56 of the women are self-made billionaires the highest ever. All but one of the 15 newly self-made female billionaires came from the Asia-Pacfic region, including Vietnams first self-made female billionaire Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao who took her budget airline VietJet Air public last month.

Yoshiko Shinohara, who started her temp agency in her one-bedroom Tokyo apartment, became Japans first self-made female billionaire. She enters the list due to a 50% surge in the stock price of her company Temp Holdings, which is designed to get more women into the workforce.

The richest woman on the list is Frances Liliane Bettencourt, who inherited a stake in LOreal from her father. Shes worth $39.5bn.

There are just 10 black people on the list, a drop of two from last year. The richest black person is Nigerian cement tycoon Aliko Dangote with an estimated fortune of $12.2bn. There are only three black women on the list, including Oprah Winfrey who has a $3bn fortune.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/20/forbes-billionaire-list-trump-loses-1bn-as-elite-club-welcomes-233-new-members

Trump supports Dakota pipeline but claims it’s not due to his investment in it

Transition team says that the president-elects endorsement of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline has nothing to do with his personal investments

Donald Trump has said he supports a controversial oil pipeline that runs next to a Native American reservation in North Dakota a project that the president-elect is personally invested in.

A briefing from Trumps transition team said that the real estate magnate supports the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline and that his backing has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans.

Financial disclosure forms released earlier this year show that Trump has a stake in Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based firm behind the pipeline, and Phillips 66, which will hold a share of the project once completed.

Trumps investment in Energy Transfer Partners dropped from between $500,000 and $1m in 2015 to between $1,500 and $50,000 this year. His stake in Phillips 66, however, rose from between $50,000 and $100,000 last year to between $250,000 and $500,000 this year, according to the forms.

The financial relationship has run both ways. Kelcy Warren, chief executive of Energy Transfer Partners, gave $103,000 to elect Trump and handed over a further $66,800 to the Republican National Committee after the property developer secured the GOPs presidential nomination.

However, Trumps transition team dismissed any conflict of interest. Those making such a claim are only attempting to distract from the fact that president-elect Trump has put forth serious policy proposals he plans to set in motion on day one, said a briefing note that was sent to campaign supporters.

In this 25 November 2016 satellite image taken by DigitalGlobe, construction of the Dakota Access pipeline is shown at the top right. Photograph: AP

Mary Sweeters, a spokesperson for Greenpeace, said Trumps support showed that crony capitalism will run his administration.

This is the definition of corruption, she said. The president of the United States should not be trading favors with oil and gas corporations. Millions of people will lose access to a clean water supply, including the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and the rest of America will face the impacts of catastrophic climate change from burning fossil fuels.

A protest camp has grown in North Dakota since April, amid fears that the $3.8bn Dakota Access pipeline will threaten the water and cultural artifacts of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The 1,170-mile pipeline will take oil from North Dakotas Bakken fields to a refinery in Illinois and will cross the Missouri river the main source of water for the tribe.

The long-running protest has unified Native American tribes against the project, with repeated clashes between protesters and police. This week, North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple ordered the immediate evacuation of the protest camp, amid accusations of police violence from the mass arrests and water cannon deployment that have echoes of the civil rights protests of the 1960s.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/02/donald-trump-dakota-access-pipeline-support-investment

ExxonMobil under investigation over lucrative Nigerian oil deal

Exclusive: documents obtained by the Guardian show Nigerian agency looking into 2009 lease agreement for countrys Crown Jewels oil fields

ExxonMobils deal to secure the Crown Jewels of Nigerian oil reserves is under investigation by the west African countrys economic and financial crimes commission, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.

Exxon, the worlds largest oil company, secured the lucrative oil rights in 2009 by beating out Chinas fourth-largest oil producer for access, despite apparently underbidding its rival bid by $2.25bn.

A letter provided to the Guardian addressed to an Exxon subsidiary from Nigerias federal ministry of petroleum resources shows the accepting of a 2009 bid of $1.5bn for a 20-year lease on the Oso, Ekpe, Edop and Ubit oil fields, which produce about 580,000 barrels a day between them close to a third of Nigerias crude oil production of about 1.8bn barrels a day, according to Opec.

Local Exxon rival Sunrise Power & Transmission, at the time a consortium of Nigerian and Chinese interests that included the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), bid $3.75bn for the same rights, according to a letter from Sunrise to the Nigerian president.

The deal was reported to the Nigerian authorities by Lanre Suraju, a Nigerian anti-corruption activist and chairman of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption. Suraju said he was passed documents related to the deal by a concerned citizen after his June 2015 petition to investigate the bid was made public. Suraju was the recipient of a letter dated 17 August 2015 in which the authorities confirm they are investigating the deal.

lanre suraju letter
The letter to activist Lanre Suraju confirming the investigation of Exxons deal.

The documents were given to the Guardian by international watchdog group Global Witness, which said it had confirmed the investigation with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The EFCC told the Guardian it could not comment on the existence of an investigation, though Suraju said that as of last week the EFCC has progressed impressively on the matter.

Revelations about the investigation come at a sensitive moment for the oil industry: the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is currently considering a rulemaking under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that would require energy companies to disclose the specific payments, down to the level of the individual project, that the firms make to foreign governments in order to secure lucrative mining and drilling rights.

Dominic Eagleton of Global Witness said his organization wants to support greater transparency in international oil deals and hopes the SEC rule passes as proposed. Its vital that the US introduces strong transparency rules to bring these deals into public view, enabling citizens in Nigeria and other oil-rich nations to hold their governments and companies to account for how the money is used, he said.

Exxon has argued to the SEC that the new rule disregards a court ruling against the regulator and the many comments, concerns, and good-faith proposals for alternative approaches put forward by industry.

An internal memo signed by executives of the nations state-run oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), shows Exxons local subsidiary Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN) originally tried to acquire a 25-year license to receive billions of dollars of oil for just $75m, saying they had expected the price for the lease renewal to be millions not billions.

The three oil-mining leases, or OMLs, renewed in 2009 at the end of a 40-year lease, are for shallow-water offshore lots of oil-rich real estate labeled blocks 67, 68 and 70. Production at the properties is very high, according to reports. Assuming the leased properties generate that many barrels every day of the year at an average of $50 a barrel, the gross revenue from ExxonMobils 40% stake in the wells would come to $4.2bn annually. The properties also produce natural gas.

Mobil Producing Nigeria takes strong exception to these allegations, Lauren Kerr, the operations media relations manager for ExxonMobil, told the Guardian. Mobil Producing Nigeria fully complied with the requirements outlined by Nigerian law for the renewal of oil mining licenses 67, 68 and 70. Nigerian law, as prescribed under the Petroleum Act, outlines the processes and procedures for an oil mining license renewal in the country. Within this framework an agreement between the Nigerian government and MPN was reached and legally executed.

We have noted the same to Global Witness.

The company adheres to the highest standards of business conduct, and to imply so without evidence is grossly irresponsible.

Mobil Producing Nigeria memo

CNOOC said it would not comment on the specifics of the deal, though spokeswoman Irene Gao said the company had learned from the experience: In the future, the Company will attach more importance to the organic development of overseas assets and further optimize its overseas portfolio, Gao told the Guardian.

For the year ending 2015, ExxonMobil reported realizing $12.2bn from all of its Nigerian assets in sales and other operating revenue.

Just two months before the renewal, the Financial Times reported that Tanimu Yakubu, economic adviser to Nigerias former president Umaru YarAdua, had said that Chinese bidders are really offering multiples of what existing producers are pledging [for licences] we love to see this kind of competition.

But the leases stayed with Exxon to the consternation of Leno Adesanya, at the time the chairman of Sunrise Power & Transmission, a consortium of local and Chinese interests that included CNOOC.

In the case of ExxonMobils OML 67, 68 and 70, our consortium offered $3.75bn for 40% equity interest in oil reserves, Adesanya wrote to Nigerias current president, Muhammadu Buhari, last July according to one letter provided to the Guardian. The letter goes on to say that the company had offered $18.75bn for a 100% interest in the same properties under the original agreements, the wells are a joint venture in which 40% of the oil goes to Mobil Producing Nigeria, and the other 60% to Nigerias state oil company.

A letter from 31 August 2009, little more than two months before the acceptance of the lower bid, details the $18bn bid from Sunrise and seems to assert the Chinese firms ability to handle the daunting logistics of changing ownership from Exxon, though it does not directly refer to its competitor: It is important to emphasize that Sunrise, CNOOC and the other constituent members of the Consortium are not only capable of funding petroleum operations in the respective OMLs, but have the technical know-how to undertake and carry out petroleum operations as required by international petroleum oilfield practices.

Exxons current rights are based on a disputed November 2009 deal, the negotiation of which was the subject of an inquiry by Nigerias now former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madeuke, who said at the time she would recall the agreement since they had only been signed by a junior minister, Henry Odein Ajumogobia, and had never been countersigned by the senior oil minister, the late Rilwanu Lukman. A letter from Ajumogobia sets the price of the Exxon deal at $1.5bn, though it was widely reported as costing only $600m.

Alison-Madeuke, later the president of Opec, was arrested in London last October by Britains National Crime Agency as part of a corruption investigation. She was released on bail and did not appear before a magistrate in October, citing health concerns.

The documents appear to include pages one and three of an initial agreement from Ajumogobia confirming the renewal of the leases. Page two has been withheld; Suraju said he believes that it contains terms outlining the construction of a power plant, which the government presented as evidence that it had driven a hard bargain when pressed to investigate the deal for corruption.

Sunrise Power letter

Local news reports citing Nigerian officials value the power plant at $900m, which Suraju believes accounts for the difference between the $600m reported and the $1.5bn described in the letter to MPN from Ajumogobia.

The design contract for the power plant was awarded in 2009. In 2010, the NNPC announced groundbreaking on the project. An article published Tuesday described progress on the power plant, located at ExxonMobils Qua Iboe terminal in Akwa Ibom state, as slow.

One of the documents obtained by Suraju is a memo signed by officials of the national oil firm, the NNPC, describing the negotiations with Exxon. [T]hese blocks, particularly OMLs 67, 68 and 70 are the most prolific portfolio of hydrocarbon assets in offshore Niger-Delta, the governments representatives said. They are rightly referred to as the Crown Jewels.

Exxons lease on the blocks was set to expire in November 2009, and renegotiating that agreement was of paramount importance to the west African nation. [T]hese blocks represent the last remaining shallow-water resources of this magnitude in the Nigerian continental shelf and therefore lease renewal represents a unique opportunity for value capture for the Government, the reports authors wrote. Assuming a long-term minimum oil price of $50 a barrel (Brent crude was trading for just over $50 a barrel on Thursday), the government asked for $2.55bn.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jun/23/exxonmobil-nigeria-oil-fields-deal-investigation

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