Mother and son lose US$16 billion in 2018 as Continental sinks

HANOVER: The majority shareholders of German car-parts maker Continental AG have lost about US$16 billion – more than half of their combined wealth – so far this year.

Continental Chairman Georg Schaeffler and his mother Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler-Thumann, the vice chairman, have seen their fortunes tumble 53% after the company warned that extra costs and tough business conditions in Europe and Asia would weigh on profits.

A senior executive said this week that the challenges will persist into 2019.

They’re now worth a combined US$14.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, after the biggest wealth drop this year among Europe’s richest families.

The mother and son also control Schaeffler AG, a publicly traded German engineering group that has faced similar pressures as Continental, the world’s second-largest car-parts maker. Shares of both companies have plunged more than 40% this year.

Germany has the highest number of billionaires within Europe among the world’s 500 richest, including Bayerische Motoren Werke AG major shareholder Susanne Klatten and SAP SE co-founder Hasso Plattner.

Georg Schaeffler, 54, inherited 80% of the ball-bearing business that carries his surname when his father died in 1996, while his mother inherited the rest, and then orchestrated one of Germany’s largest hostile takeovers by acquiring Continental a decade ago for more than US$17 billion.

He’s now the world’s 113th-richest person, according to the Bloomberg index.