Asia narrows US lead in list of billionaires

ASIA churned out 105 billionaires last year, narrowing the US’s lead in the Forbes magazine annual list of billionaires.

The Asia-Pacific region now has 300 billionaires, versus the US’s 413, collectively valued at $1.3 trillion and $1.5 trillion respectively. China now has 115 billionaires, versus India’s 55.

The list set a new record for being the longest ever compiled in its 25-year history, with 1,210 making the cut, up from 1,011 last year. The net worth of those on it rose from $3.6 trillion to $4.5 trillion, larger than the size of Germany’s economy.

For a second year running, Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim Helu and his family topped the list, with their net worth surging an astonishing $20.5bn to $74bn. He was followed by Bill Gates, worth $56bn and Warren Buffett, at $50bn.

Others in the top 50 include Alice Walton of Walmart at $21bn, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, worth $20bn each and Michele Ferrero of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, worth $18bn.

Europe added more billionaires than did America this year, increasing its contribution to the list by 50 versus the US’s 23. The continent’s richest person is Bernard Arnault of French luxury group LVMH, who has amassed $41bn.

Britain’s richest man, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, can boast only $13bn, or 57th place, mostly from real estate.

He is followed by other real estate tycoons David and Simon Reuben, who are sitting on $8bn and Cristina and Philip Green of Topshop and Arcadia Group, who are worth $7.2bn. Green was commissioned to act as the government’s efficiency czar last year, producing a report that recommended billions in savings.

The best industries to be in for prospective newcomers to the rich list was energy, which produced 31 new billionaires, followed by fashion and retail, manufacturing and finance.

The proportion of women on the list remained roughly constant at 8.4 per cent versus 8.8 per cent last year.