NEW YORK – As emerging stock markets surged during the past year, 102 wealthy people around the world won a much-coveted title along with their stellar gains: They all became billionaires.
But tepid returns in the United States ate into the fortunes of some rich Americans, including the founding family of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The number of billionaires around the world rose by 102 to a record 793 over the past year, and their combined wealth grew 18 percent to $2.6 trillion, according to Forbes magazine’s 2006 rankings.
Forbes editor Luisa Kroll noted that Russia’s stock market jumped 108 percent between February 2005 and this February, while India’s market rose by more than 54 percent during the same period.
Kroll said the changes on the list weren’t driven by U.S. investments.
“The more exciting story is these emerging markets,” she said. “The U.S. stock market was quite a laggard, with only a 1 percent increase.”
Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates was again the world’s richest man for the 12th year in a row. Gates grew wealthier, with his net worth rising to $50 billion from $46.5 billion. Investor Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., again ranked second; his fortune fell by $2 billion to $42 billion.
The rest of the top 10 underwent a major reshuffling, with three familiar names dropping out of that select group: German supermarket company owner Karl Albrecht, Oracle Corp.’s Lawrence Ellison and Wal-Mart chairman S. Robson Walton.
Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu moved up one notch to No. 3 with $30 billion, replacing Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, who fell one place to No. 5 with $23.5 billion.
Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad of Sweden rose two slots to No. 4 with $28 billion.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen edged up to sixth place from No. 7, with a net worth of $22 billion. He was followed by France’s Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive of LVMH and The Christian Dior Group, with $21.5 billion; Arnault was new to the top 10.
Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud fell to eighth place from No. 5, with $20 billion; and Canadian publisher Kenneth Thomson and his family moved into the top 10, ranking No. 9 with $19.6 million.
Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing rose to No. 10 with $18.8 billion. Ka-shing is chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd. and Hutchinson Whampoa Ltd.
The Walton family, which had dominated the upper echelons of the Forbes list in recent years, tumbled in this year’s ranking as stock in the world’s largest retailer dropped more than 10 percent in the past year.
Martha Stewart, who was new to the list last year, dropped off completely this year. Her fortune shrank from $1 billion to an estimated $500 million following her conviction for lying about a stock sale and her five-month prison term.