BRIC accounts for more than half of new billionaires

Published 11 March 2011
The Business Times

Of 214 newcomers, 54 are from China and 31 from Russia, says Forbes

(NEW YORK) The Asia-Pacific region produced 105 new billionaires in 2010, more than Europe for the first time in over a decade and the most for any region, according to Forbes magazine’s annual tally of the world’s super-rich. China alone produced 54 new billionaires.

BRIC accounts for more than half of new billionairesOverall, the global ranks of billionaires grew by 199 people in the past year, according to Forbes. At the top of the list for the second year running was the telecoms magnate Carlos Slim of Mexico, who added US$20.5 billion to his coffers which burgeoned to US$74 billion.

The richest Asian is Indian tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, chief executive officer of the world’s largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal, with a net worth of US$31.5 billion. Mr Mittal was placed at No 6 in the global league.

The second richest Asian (No 9 worldwide) is chairman of India’s Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani, with a net worth of US$27 billion.

The number of people on Forbes’ list climbed to a record 1,210, with a combined wealth of US$4.5 trillion, up from US$3.6 trillion a year ago.

While the biggest slice of that wealth, US$1.5 trillion, is controlled by people in the United States, the publication said that more than half of the new billionaires came from the so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. In China, there are now 115 billionaires; the richest among them is Robin Li, who is worth US$9 billion.

The world’s richest man, Mr Slim, retained his position thanks to the strength of the Mexican stock market, a stronger peso and successful business spinoffs, Forbes said. The bulk of his net worth comes from his holdings in America Movil, Latin America’s largest phone service provider.

No 2 on the global list is Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp and now a full-time philanthropist, who has a net worth of US$56 billion. Forbes noted that Mr Gates, once the world’s wealthiest man, has given US$30 billion to his charity, The Gates Foundation. If that amount were added to his fortune, he would have remained the world’s richest man.

The rebound in the stock market helped investor Warren Buffett’s wealth increase to US$50 billion, while the return of peoples’ appetite for luxury goods pushed LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault up to No 4 on the list from No 7, with a net worth of US$41 billion.

While there was some jostling for position, the make-up of the top 10 on Forbes’ list was almost unchanged. Christy Walton, whose father-in-law Sam Walton and his brother founded Wal-Mart Stores Inc, displaced Germany’s Karl Albrecht as No 10. Ms Walton, one of 102 women on the list this year, saw her net worth climb to US$26 billion.

Mr Albrecht, who owns a discount supermarket company called Aldi Sud, saw his wealth increase to US$25.5 billion, putting him at No 12.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of the popular social networking site Facebook, had the fastest-growing net worth, Forbes said – it more than tripled to US$13.5 billion, earning him the No 52 spot on the list. Another Facebook employee, Dustin Moskovitz, made his debut as the youngest billionaire on the list, with US$2.7 billion, putting him at No 420. He is 26 years old.

Overall, Forbes said that 648 of the billionaires’ wealth increased in the past year, while 160 of the world’s wealthiest had declining fortunes. The rest were unchanged.

Of the 214 newcomers, 54 were from China and 31 from Russia. Moscow displaced New York as the city with the greatest number of billionaires with 79, compared with New York’s 58.

‘The big global story is not the individuals so much as what’s happening with the so-called BRICs and the Asia-Pacific region,’ said Forbes Media editor-in-chief Steve Forbes, in a press conference announcing the results on Wednesday.

Robin Li, 42, the richest in China excluding Hong Kong, rose to 95th from 258th in 2010 as his net worth jumped US$5.9 billion to US$9.4 billion. He is the chief executive officer of Internet search site Baidu Inc.

Li Ka-shing, 82, remains the richest in Hong Kong with US$26 billion, up US$5 billion from 2010 and was 11th overall. His companies have interests in shipping, energy, telecommunications and retail.

Chung Mong Koo, 72, chairman of Seoul-based Hyundai Motor Co, jumped 87 spots to 162nd, with US$6 billion. Mr Chung is the second wealthiest in South Korea behind Lee Kun Hee, 69, chairman of Seoul-based Samsung Electronics Co, who was 105th with US$8.6 billion. — AFP, AP

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