27 April 2009

Metal recyclers hit hard in Rich List 2009

The full impact of last year's big fall in materials prices on the metals recycling sector has been estimated in this year's Sunday Times Rich List, detailing the 1,000 wealthiest people and families in Britain and Ireland.

The Rich List 2009 was published on Sunday

The Rich List 2009 was published on Sunday

The list, which was published yesterday (April 26), is based on the newspaper's calculations relating to peoples' “identifiable wealth, whether land, property, racehorses, art or significant shares in publicly quoted companies”.

The value of the list as a whole dropped by 37% due to the recession and the newspaper claimed that the family behind Cheshire-based European Metal Recycling saw its wealth drop by 58%, and John Harry, the owner of Merseyside scrap metal company S Norton, dropped off the list altogether.

However, in contrast to metals the food recycling sector appears to have fared better. Doncaster-based food waste recycler Prosper de Mulder (PDM), and the company's owner, Anthony de Mulder and his family, saw their wealth increase by £45 million, from £85 million in 2008 to £130 million this year, according to the list's compilers.

Metals recyclers

The Sunday Times calculated that Phillip Sheppard and family, who head up Warrington-based European Metal Recycling (EMR), saw their wealth more than halve – from £780 million in 2008's list to £330 million in 2009 – and slipped from 96th place in 2008 to 156th this year.

And, brothers Gerald and John Murphy, who run one of Ireland's biggest metals recycling businesses, County Armagh-based Clearway Disposals, saw their wealth reduced by 37.5%, from £120 million in 2008 to £75 million in 2009, and as a result fell from 644th in the list to 751st.

Commenting on EMR's fortunes, the newspaper said: “European Metal Recycling, headed by Sheppard, 62, saw profits climb to £119m on £2.2 billion sales in 2007 but last year demand for recycled metal products collapsed.”

As the owner of S Norton, John Harry had been placed 879th on the list last year, with a wealth of £90 million. However, he failed to make the £55 million cut-off point to figure in this year's top 1,000.


While some metals recyclers are said by the paper to have been hit by the downturn, the list also revealed some positive news for the recycling sector, and in particular food waste recycler Prosper de Mulder (PDM).

Commenting on PDM's success, the newspaper cited its “strong balance sheet with more than £88 million net assets”, and posting £41.2 million profits for 2007/08 as important factors, which meant it moved from 924th to 406th in the list.

In January 2009, PDM announced plans to spend £110 million over the next three years on new facilities and processes, focussing on energy generation from food waste (see letsrecycle.com story).


As the developers of Tetrapak packaging, Hans Rausing and his family are the highest-ranked members of the list whose activities relate to the waste and recycling sector, with their wealth of £4 billion placing them at 5th in the list, despite being £1.4 billion down on their 2008 figure.

As was the case in 2008's list (see letsrecycle.com story), Sean Quinn and family, who head up Irish-based Quinn Group – which incorporates Quinn Glass, topped the table for those with more direct involvement in the recycling sector.

Despite taking a £1.435 billion hit to their wealth, the Quinn's have moved just one place down in the list, from 12th to 13th, and are listed as having a combined wealth of £2.295 billion.

Quinn Glass offers a significant outlet for recycled glass at its £120 million glass plant at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, and has recently been embroiled in a legal wrangle with rival Ardargh (see letsrecycle.com story) .


Other figures in the waste and recycling sector saw their wealth decline in the Rich List, but their placing in the list remained largely unchanged – and in some cases improved – as a result of the overall downturn in people's wealth.

Among these were Sir Michael Smurfit and family, who previously ran Dublin-based packaging and paper recycling company Smurfit Kappa, whose wealth fell from £398 million in 2008 to £294 million, but rose in the list from 224th to 203rd.

Michael Cornish and family, who sold the majority of their stake in Lincolnshire packaging firm Linpac, which is also one of the UK's largest plastics recyclers, six years ago, rose from 131st to 74th on the list, despite their wealth falling from £637 million to £597 million.

Waste management

The men behind two of the UK's best-known waste management companies also saw their positions in the list improve, despite their wealth being reduced last year – suggesting that they have been more insulated from the recession than other sectors.

Biffa founder Richard Biffa, moved up from 759th on the list to 648th, despite his wealth having fallen from £105 million to £87 million.

And, Norman Grundon, the founder of Oxfordshire-based Grundon Waste Management, rose from 969th to 924th, even though, according to the paper, his wealth fell from £80 million in 2008 to £60 million this year.

The full Rich List compiled by the Sunday Times, including those placed from 1,001 to 2,000, is set to be published online tomorrow (April 28).




Wealth 2008 

Wealth 2009 

5 Hans Rausing and family  Packaging (Tetra Pak)  £5.4 billion £4 billion
13 Sean Quinn and family Glass recycling and property (Quinn Glass) £3.73 billion £2.295 billion
74  Michael Cornish and family Packaging (Linpac) £637 million £597 million
156 Phillip Sheppard and family Metals recycling (EMR) £780 million £330 million
203 Sir Michael Smurfit and family Paper packaging and property (Smurfit Kappa) £398 million £294 million
350  Gary Widdowson Metals recycling £160 million £160 million 
406  Anthony de Mulder and family Food waste recycling (PDM Group) £85 million £130 million 
648 Richard Biffa Waste Services (Biffa) £105 million £87 million
751 Gerald and John Murphy Metals recycling (Clearway Disposals) £120 million £75 million
924 Norman Grundon Waste Services (Grundon) £80 million £60 million
Source: The Sunday Times Rich List 2009

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