Page last updated at 18:44 GMT, Saturday, 25 April 2009 19:44 UK

Profile: Lakshmi Mittal

Lakshmi Mittal
Lakshmi Mittal is worth an estimated 10.8bn

Steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal has topped the UK Rich List for the fifth year running.

When he became the world's biggest steel-maker by merging his Dutch-based company Mittal Steel with Arcelor of Luxembourg in 2006, it capped a remarkable rise to riches.

From modest beginnings in India, the 58-year-old's razor-sharp understanding of the steel market enabled him to create an empire that spanned the globe.

Born to a poor family in the Indian state of Rajasthan in 1950, Mr Mittal established the foundations of his fortune over two decades by doing much of his business in the steel industry equivalent of a discount warehouse.

He would buy the unwanted assets of other steel groups or snap up worn out state-owned plants.

Mr Mittal's son, Aditya, told BBC Radio 4's Profile programme that one of the reasons Rajasthan had successful entrepreneurs was that there was very little there in the first place.

Amit Bhatia and Vanisha Mittal
Mr Mittal gave his daughter Vanisha a proper send off

Being forced to look elsewhere for business opportunities spurred them on to succeed.

However, the merger with Arcelor, which was initially opposed by the Luxembourg firm, proved that Mr Mittal had the ability to complete the biggest of deals.

Arcelor Mittal's crude steel production of 103.3 million tonnes in 2008 represented about 10% of global steel output.

With a presence in more than 60 countries, its revenue last year amounted to $124.9bn (£84.9bn) and the Mittal family owns a 43% stake.

Mr Mittal once occupied the number three slot in Forbes magazine's list of the world's richest billionaires, behind Microsoft's Bill Gates and hedge fund impresario Warren Buffett.

However, a 75% slump in steel prices since summer 2008 was blamed for him dropping to eighth place in this year's list, with a $19.3bn (£13.1bn) fortune.

Arcelor Mittal announced in April 2009 that it was delaying the launch of two new plants in India by up to two years in the face of a fall in demand which saw it report a fourth-quarter net loss of $2.6bn (£1.75bn).

Kensington mansion

It had already announced it was refinancing $1.2bn (£0.8bn) of its net debt of $26.5bn (£18bn) until 2012.

Since moving to London in 1995, the "Steel Maharajah" - as Mr Mittal is known - has been well known for his expensive tastes.

Mr Mittal owns a house, or rather a neo-Palladian mansion, in London's exclusive Kensington Palace Gardens.

Bought from Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone in 2003 for £70m, it is said to be the most expensive private residence ever bought.

Many of the floors and pillars are said to be made of marble imported from the quarry used to construct the Taj Mahal.

15a Kensington  Palace Gardens
Houses in Kensington Palace Gardens don't come cheap

It has Turkish baths, a ballroom, an oak-panelled picture gallery and a jewelled basement pool, while security is controlled by 65 state-of-the-art CCTV cameras.

But the house can be viewed as an investment for the married father of two, unlike the estimated £34m he generously spent in the summer of 2004 hosting his daughter Vanisha's wedding celebrations in France.

According to Indian press reports, over 1,000 guests lucky enough to receive one of the 20-page, silver-plated invitations were flown in from around the world for five days of festivities.

But Mr Mittal's most notorious expenditure came in the form of a donation to the Labour Party.

The £125,000 donation to the party just before the 2001 General Election sparked a major political row, dubbed 'Mittalgate".

Both Mr Mittal and the Labour Party denied that it was connected with a letter that then Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote a few weeks later, supporting the steel magnate in a deal to buy a state-owned Romanian steel firm.

The donation has since been dwarfed by a £2m handout he gave the party in 2007.

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