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MOSCOW (Reuters) - The number of Russian billionaires has halved in a year to 49 as the financial crisis destroyed the fortunes of bankers, developers and retailers, Russian magazine Finans' said on Friday.
Last year, with 101 dollar billionaires on the Finans' rich list, Russia trailed only the U.S. as a home for the mega-rich, as record oil and metals prices fueled a decade-long economic rise.
But a collapse in commodity and stock prices, a 35 percent rouble devaluation and high inflation have made Russian billionaires more scarce now than in 2007 and 2006, when Finans counted 61 and 50, respectively.
Finans said the list would be published on Monday. It said the main losers included developers Sergei Polonsky of Mirax, and Kirill Pisarev and Yury Zhukov of PIK Group.
Also dropping off the list are banker Ruben Vardanyan, core owner of Troika Dialog brokerage, Vyacheslav Kantor, of fertiliser firm Acron, and Alexander Mamut, who owns part of gold and silver miner Polymetal.
Finans publishes its list two months ahead of the benchmark U.S. Forbes' Russia list. Last year, it was the first to put metals magnate Oleg Deripaska on top, with $40 billion, ahead of Roman Abramovich. Deripaska also topped the Forbes list.
Deripaska's empire, which spreads from aluminum to construction, now faces major challenges as the Kremlin-friendly businessman struggles to refinance debts. He has lost assets in Canada and Germany put up as collateral on bank debts.
Deripaska himself has long argued that calculations of his fortune were wrong as they did not count his debts, which are estimated -- though not confirmed by Deripaska -- at over $20 billion.
Few expect Deripaska to top any rich list this year, but it could fall to his partner in aluminum major UC RUSAL, Mikhail Prokhorov, who featured in last year's top ten, but sold most of his assets in mid-2008 and has since preserved the bulk of his wealth in cash.
For a Reuters interview with Prokhorov see
Last year, Finans listed Abramovich second behind Deripaska with $23 billion. Oil tycoon Mikhail Fridman and steel baron Vladimir Lisin shared third place, with $22.2 billion each, and steel tycoon Alexei Mordashov came fifth, with $22.1 billion.
Fridman's Alfa Group received state help to save its stake in mobile phone form Vimpelcom and his empire has also been hit by lower oil prices, while a slump in steel prices has cut the value of the firms owned by Mordashov and Lisin.
Abramovich, owner of English soccer club Chelsea, has probably seen fewer troubles, as he was among the earliest Russians to cash out of major industrial assets.
Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov, editing by Will Waterman