Slim pickings: Not for world’s richest man Carlos

Mexico telecoms czar Carlos Slim topped the Forbes annual world’s richest list, holding the edge over Microsoft’s Bill Gates who continued to give away billions to charity.

Despite a $6bn (€4.5bn) hit to his wealth from slumping stock markets over the past year, Forbes said Slim’s $69bn (€52bn) was enough to keep him on top of its global billionaires list for the third straight year.

Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, had a fortune worth $61bn, still hefty after having given away $28bn over recent years to global causes such as fighting Aids and polio.

The two topped a list of 1,226 billionaires Forbes counted around the world, dominated as ever by Americans — 425 in total and 11 of the top 20 — but also underpinned by the rise of concentrated wealth in China and Russia.

There was plenty of movement on the list, with 128 billionaires entering for the first time and 117 dropping off.

The most notable people to leave the list were Harry Potter author JK Rowling, Australian Gerald Harvey, executive chairman of the Harvey Norman discount retail stores, and Jim Balsillie, former co-chief executive of Research in Motion, the maker of BlackBerry.

Showing the impact of sluggish world growth over the past two years, the list only expanded by 16 this year, and the average billionaire’s money pot was unchanged at $3.7bn.

But many of the stars of recent years felt the hit of slumps in stock markets, where much of their wealth is counted.

India’s steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal dropped out of the top 20 for the first time since 2004, Forbes said, after shares of his main business, ArcelorMittal, plunged, leaving him $10.4bn poorer with just $20.7bn.

Likewise, the number of Chinese billionaires shrank with Asian stock markets, to 95 from 115 last year. But Chinese and Russian billionaires together still made up 16% of the world’s total.

The downturn in the European economy was also evident in the numbers: for the second year running, there were more billionaires in the Asia-Pacific region (315) than in Europe (310).

In the overall list, holding the third spot behind Gates was, as in previous years, US investment guru Warren Buffett, worth $44bn.

He was followed by France’s luxury king Bernard Arnault, with $41bn, and a newcomer to the top five, Spain’s Amancio Ortega, the owner of the Zara fashion chain.

Ortega’s net worth surged by $6.5bn over the past year to $37.5bn despite Spain’s financial straits, Forbes said.

Filling out the top 10 were Larry Ellison of US software giant Oracle, Brazilian mining tycoon Eike Batista, H&M owner Stefan Persson of Sweden, Hong Kong investor Li Ka-shing and Germany’s Karl Albrecht, the super-secretive tycoon who owns the Aldi Sud chain.

In terms of single countries, Russia was second to the United States with 96 billionaires, led by Alisher Usmanov, number 28 overall with $18.1bn. Usmanov topped the Russian list for the first time based on his control of iron ore and steel producer Metalloinvest.

China’s billionaires list is led by an Internet tycoon, Robin Li. The chief executive of the country’s huge web service and search firm Baidu has earned himself a $10.2bn fortune. Behind them were 55 Germans, 48 Indians, 37 British, 37 from Hong Kong, 36 Brazilians, 25 in Canada, and 24 billionaires each from Taiwan and Japan.

O’Brien sells networks in South America

Denis O’Brien has sold his mobile networks in Honduras and El Salvador to Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man.

Slim’s telecommunications company América Móvil announced it had agreed a deal — but did not disclose the price.

Meanwhile, Digicel said it has signed an agreement with América Móvil to acquire its Claro business in Jamaica.

América Móvil is one of the largest telecom companies on the planet, boasting 225 million wireless customers across the American continent — and Digicel has 11.5 million customers across the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific.

The most recent annual figures for Digicel show the group reported revenues of $2.2 billion to the end of March 2010.

It is expected the deal will be finalised in the next quarter, subject to governmental and regulatory approvals in Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica.

Ireland’s rich

Ireland’s top billionaires according to Forbes:

PALLONJI MISTRY

Net Worth: $9.7bn (€7.32bn) as of March 2012

Age: 82

Source of wealth: Construction

Residence: Mumbai, India

Marital status: Married

Children: 4

96th in Forbes billionaires rich-list

DENIS O’BRIEN

Net worth: $5bn (€3.77bn) as of March 2012

Age: 53

Source of wealth: Telecoms, self-made

Residence: Dublin

Education: Master of business administration, Boston College

Marital status: Married

Children: 4

205th in Forbes list

JOHN DORRANCE III

Net worth: $2.4bn (€1.8bn) as of March 2012

Age: 68

Source of wealth: Campbell Soup

Residence: Dublin

Marital status: Married

521st on Forbes list

MARTIN NAUGHTON

Net worth: $2bn (€1.5bn) as of March 2012

Age: 72

Source of wealth: Heating equipment, self-made

Residence: Meath

Marital status: Married

Children: 3

634rd on Forbes list

DERMOT DESMOND

Net worth: $1.5 (€1.13bn) as of March 2012

Age: 61

Source of wealth: Finance, self-made

Residence: Dublin

Education: Good Counsel College, New Ross, Co Wexford

Marital status: Married

Children: 4

854th on Forbes list

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