Rich list signals shift in fortunes

Mexican tycoon tops Forbes magazine's annual list of world's wealthiest people.

    Of the debuting billionaires, 62 were from Asia, signalling economic recovery in the region

    The number of tycoons from the Asia-Pacific region with a 10-figure net worth, has risen to 234 from 130 last year, the magzine says.

    This accounts for 23 per cent of the 1,011 billionaires on the global list, against 16 per cent the year before.

    Mainland China has the second-most billionaires after the US, overtaking Russia for the first time.

    Bust to boom

    The publication's annual rich list reflected a resurgence of wealth after the financial turmoil of 2009, with the top 10 wealthiest worth a combined $342bn, compared to $254bn in the previous year.

    Slim has beaten out Americans Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to become 'wealthiest' [AFP]

    Not only are there more billionaires than last year, but the ones at the top are even richer than last year, Forbes said.

    "The global economy is recovering. The financial markets came back, especially emerging markets," Steve Forbes, the magazine editor-in-chief, said.

    "There's a 50 per cent increase in general global wealth compared to last year."

    Certainly the economy recovered for the super rich, who took a beating during last year's stock and commodity market collapses, but saw across-the-board gains this year.

    Forbes counted 1,011 billionaires from 55 countries, up from 793 last year, though still shy of the pre-crisis 1,125 listed in 2008.

    Suzanne Nam, a contributing editor for Forbes magazine, told Al Jazeera that many of these billionaires are "contributing significantly into their economies and to the wellbeing of the people in their countries".

    Top spot

    Slim, 70, took the top spot for the first time, pushing Gates, 54, out as he rose from third place on the success of America Movil, Latin America's biggest mobile phone operator.

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    This was the first time since 1994 that a non-US citizen took the spot.

    But Slim's financial edge over Gates is just $500 million. A $1 increase in Microsoft shares could send Gates' net worth ahead of Slim's, the compilers of the Forbes list said.

    Also, were it not for his extensive philanthropy, Gates would have a net worth of $80bn, Matthew Miller, Forbes' senior editor, estimated.

    Despite Gates, 54, slipping to second place, the US remained by far the dominant home of the super-rich, with 403 billionaires, or 40 per cent of the world's ten-figure fortunes, down from 45 per cent.

    That includes number three Warren Buffett, who at 79 is considered one of the most reliable and successful Wall Street investors, and Oracle's Lawrence Ellison, 65, who completed a $7.4bn buyout of Sun Microsystems in January.

    Fresh billionaires

    The list includes 97 fresh billionaires, 62 of them coming out of Asia, a region that saw booming stock markets and several large public offerings in the past year.

    Mainland China was for the first time the country with the most billionaires after the US with 64. Including Hong Kong, the Chinese account for 89 billionaires.

    Russia comes in third with 62 billionaires, many of them commodities kings who fell off the list last year, only to see their vast natural resource holdings regain value this year.


    Total number of billionaires increased from 793 to 1,011
      Carlos Slim (Mexico): $53.5bn
      Bill Gates (US): $53bn
      Warren Buffett (US): $47bn
      Mukesh Ambani (India): $29bn
      Lakshmi Mittal (India): $28.7bn
      Larry Ellison (USA): $28bn
      Bernard Arnault (France): $27.5bn
      Eike Batista (Brazil): $27bn
      Amancio Ortega (Spain): $25bn
      * Karl Albrecht (Germany): $23.5bn
      Billionaires' total net worth rose 50 per cent to $3.6 trillion

    Europe is still the number two super-wealthy region, with 248 billionaires. The richest European is France's Bernard Arnault, 61, whose LVMH sells Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon, and other luxury goods, with his net worth at $27.5bn.

    Just behind Arnault is Spain's Amancio Ortega, owner of the Zara clothing chain, with $25bn.

    Asia trails Europe by only 14 billionaires and the region's net worth of $729bn is double what it was a year ago.

    The region's richest man, oil-and-gas tycoon Mukesh Ambani, 52, climbed to four from seven on the list with a net worth of $29bn, up $9.5bn.

    Pakistan has its first person on the list, Mian Muhammad Mansha, at number 937 with $1bn.

    Elsewhere, Turkey's billionaire community expanded notably, jumping to 28 members from 13, while Western Europe, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates underperformed by comparison.

    Eighty-nine of the 1,011 billionaires are women. Fourteen of those female billionaires are self-made, including Oprah Winfrey, whose net worth decreased from $300m to $2.4bn. Half of the world's self-made female billionaires are from China.

    For three years running, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, 25, secured the distinction of being the list's youngest billionaire, ranked 212th with a net worth of $4bn.

    On the opposite end of the age spectrum is Switzerland's 99-year-old Walter Haefner, ranked 287th.

    Sorted by city, billionaires congregate first in New York, where there are 60, then Moscow at 50, and London at 32.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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