INDONESIA - In a fall from grace, Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie has failed to appear on Forbes magazine's 2012 list of the country's 40 richest men for the first time since the magazine began producing a list for Indonesia in 2006, adding another blow to his presidential bid.
The family of Aburizal, who was named Indonesia's richest man by Forbes in 2007, has been struggling to deal with the steady decline in his fortune over the past few years, mainly due to the financial fiasco currently being faced by Asia's largest exporter of thermal coal, PT Bumi Resources.
Analysts said PT Bumi's strategy of leveraging assets had failed to repay its loans, particularly after the share price of Bumi Plc., which the Bakrie family formed with Nathaniel Rothschild and listed in London in 2011, fell by 70 per cent.
Following an intense feud with Rothschild that began last year, the Bakrie Group proposed withdrawing from Bumi by revoking their indirect stake in Bumi Plc. and retaking control over PT Bumi.
Forbes estimates that Bakrie companies have nearly US$1 billion in public assets but analysts, meanwhile, say that those same companies are more than US$7.84 billion (S$9.6 billion) in debt.
Last year, Aburizal appeared in 30th position on the Forbes list, which was already a substantial drop from his 2010 ranking in 10th place.
In spite of his shrinking fortune, Aburizal managed in October to persuade Golkar members to officially nominate him the party's presidential candidate.
On Wednesday, a poll conducted among opinion leaders in the country by the respected Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) did not include Aburizal on its list of the 18 most popular candidates for the 2014 presidential election.
Instead, the poll placed Jusuf Kalla, Aburizal's predecessor and former vice president, in second place after Constitutional Court Chief Justice Mahfud MD.
Detracting even further from Aburizal's prospect of victory in 2014, Kalla recently announced that he may join the presidential ticket of Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.
Aburizal's spokesman, Lalu Mara Satria Wangsa, shrugged off Aburizal's omission from both the LSI and Forbes lists.
"Looking at my wealth is nobody else's business," Lalu Mara told The Jakarta Post, quoting Aburizal's own statement.
Lalu Mara said that Aburizal was still upbeat about his prospects in 2014. "His companies have nothing to do with his presidential bid," he said.
The 2012 Forbes top 40 have a combined total fortune of US$88.6 billion, an increase of more than 4 per cent compared with a year ago.
The Hartono brothers, Richard Budi and Michael, who together own the giant cigarette maker, Djarum, remain the country's richest men with a combined fortune of US$12.8 billion.
The owner of Trans Corp. Media, Chairul Tanjung, was ranked 9th with US$2 billion. The close aide of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono acquired 100 per cent stakes in Carrefour Indonesia earlier this month.
The list also included four newcomers. Among them was Lim Hariyanto Wijaya Sarwono, who made his debut after listing his plantation company, Bumitama Agri, on Singapore's stock exchange. He came in at 30th position with US$1.03 billion.
The other newcomers included Alexander Tedja who runs his family's Garudafood business. With $790 million, the 67-year-old businessman was ranked in 36th place.
Meanwhile, Kuncoro Wibowo, 56, who owns PT Ace Hardware Indonesia, was among the year's biggest gainers. Appearing in 32nd place, his net worth is valued at US$1.06 billion. He first appeared on the list in 2011, when he was ranked 34th with $730 million.
Besides Aburizal, other coal tycoons also fell out of the ranking. Among them were Adaro Energy's Sandiaga Uno and BUMI chairman Samin Tan.