Mexico’s Carlos Slim Helu, 70, beat Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for the top spot on 2010 Forbes magazine’s annual list of billionaires making him the first person from outside the U.S. to lead the rankings in 16 years. Slim’s net worth, 80% are held in five public stocks, rose US$18.5 billion to US$53.5 billion slightly more than Bill Gates, 54, chairman of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT, stock) whose net worth increased US$13 billion to US$53 billion. Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway’s (NYSE: BRK.A, stock) was third with US$47 billion, a rise of US$10 billion.
Slim’s empire in Mexico extend from retail to banking and construction. Slim’s Telefonos de Mexico SAB remains the biggest landline phone company in Mexico monopolizing about 80 percent of the lines. His Telmex Internacional SAB controls Brazil’s biggest long-distance and cable TV companies as well as phone and video carriers in Colombia, Peru and other South American countries. Carlos Slim also holds stakes in U.S. companies including the New York Times Co., Saks Inc. and Bronco Drilling Co.
U.S. billionaires still dominate the ranks but their grip is slipping – fast. Americans account for 40% of the world’s billionaires, down from 45% a year ago. While still commands 38% of the $3.6 trillion net worth of the world’s richest, this figure however is down from 44% a year ago. It was the Asian that stole the light when the number of of Asian billionaires spiked to 234 people from just 130 the year before – representing 23% (from 16% a year ago) of the 1,011 billionaires around the globe.
The combined wealth of Asian billionaires has also more than doubled to US$ 729 billion compared with US$ 357 billion a year ago. This rate of increase far outpaces that of European tycoons who saw their collective fortune rise by 50% while their US counterparts enjoyed only an 18% increase.
China continues to lead the Asia’s assault by more than doubling its number of billionaires to 64 from 28 last year. India follows behind, increasing its billionaires to 49 from 24 previously. Third is Hong Kong with 25 billionaires, followed by 22 from Japan, 18 from Taiwan, 11 each from Australia and South Korea, 9 from Malaysia, 7 from Indonesia, 5 from Kazakhstan, 4 from Singapore, 3 each from New Zealand and Thailand, 2 from the Philippines, and 1 from Pakistan.
Of the 234 Asian tycoons on the list, 62 are first-time billionaires out of a total of 97 new billionaires in the world. China accounts for the lion’s share of Asia’s first-time billionaires, supplying 27 new faces, followed by India with 11, Taiwan with 10, Hong Kong and Japan with three each, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea with two each, and Malaysia and Pakistan with one each.
Malaysia has the most number of billionaires in South-East Asia with Robert Kuok, former Sugar King, sharing his 33rd spot with Microsoft Corp.’s Steve Balmer. The richest man in Malaysia who is also the seventh richest man in Asia jumped from 62nd spot (Forbes ranking) last year with a net worth of US$14.5 billion. The second was Maxis Berhad’s (KLSE: MAXIS, stock-code 6012) tycoon Ananda Krishnan (US$7.6 billion) follows by IOI Corp.’s Lee Shin Cheng (US$4.4 billion) while Hong Leong Group’s Quek Leng Chan and Public Bank’s Teh Hong Piow share the same spot with US$3.4 billion each.
The latest who joined the Forbes 2010 world billionaire club is of course the Chef King (named by FinanceTwitter *ahem* after his ability to fry his stocks up as can be seen in his latest Berjaya Corporation Berhad’s (KLSE: BJCORP, stock-code 3395) flying to RM1.00 a share), Vincent Tan, whose name is also linked to political figures in Malaysia including the controversial Parkasa’s Ibrahim Ali who made numerous racist and seditious remark about Chinese taking over the country (but can walk away as if the). Strangely Ibrahim Ali served under Vincent Tan’s empire, making his claims laughable.
Of course one can argue that just like Vincent Tan, the new richest man on earth, Carlos Slim, achieved his success not because of his financial knowhow but rather his close relationship with the government or politicians. Slim was accused of robbing the Mexicans, charging very high rate for phone calls in a country where the minimum wage is 50 cents an hour. But Slim has already showed his talent in business world when he started selling drinks and snacks to his family at the age of 10.
By 11, he was investing in government saving bonds and by 15 he had bought a small quantity of stocks in Mexico’s biggest bank. He was worth US$40 million by the age of 26 but his fortune skyrocket when he saw opportunity during Mexico’s 1982 recession when businesses were rock bottom cheap. Slim live a modest lifestyle and just like Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka Shing who wore Seiko or Citizen watches; Slim is proud of his cheap plastic watch that acts as calculator as well. Slim empire is so huge (or dominating) that Mexicans continue to contribute US$30 million a day to his coffer.
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