Bernard Arnault, the world’s fourth-richest person, added $4.3 to his fortune Wednesday as Chinese consumers’ growing appetite for handbags and Hennessy cognac boosted results at LVMH.
Shares of his Paris-based luxury-goods maker surged 6.9 percent, the most since mid-2016, as fourth-quarter profit topped analysts’ estimates on strong demand from China, the world’s second-largest economy. Arnault controls about half of LVMH through a family holding company, Groupe Arnault SE.
His wealth has surged $8.3 billion since the start of the year and now stands at $76.9 billion, putting him within striking distance of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman Warren Buffett, who’s currently ranked third on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with $84.8 billion. Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, added $6.1 billion to his net worth Wednesday, while No. 2 Bill Gates, the Microsoft Inc. co-founder, gained $889.4 million.
LVMH’s stake in luxury fashion house Cristian Dior SE comprises most of Arnault’s fortune. Bernard Arnault moved into luxury goods in 1984, taking over the bankrupt textile group that owned Christian Dior. He sold the company’s other businesses and used the proceeds to buy a controlling stake in LVMH. Last month, the company agreed to acquire high-end hotel operator Belmond Ltd. in a deal that values the owner of New York’s ‘21’ Club at $2.6 billion.
Arnault has never ranked higher than fourth on the Bloomberg wealth ranking, which could see more of a shakeup near the top Thursday. Shares of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Inc. surged 12 percent in extended trading at 5:25 p.m. in New York after the company posted sales and profit that smashed estimates. Zuckerberg, currently the world’s seventh-richest person, is poised to jump to No. 5, leapfrogging Spain’s Amancio Ortega and Mexico’s Carlos Slim.