Bill Gates Tops Forbes List of Billionaires for the 12th Year

March 9 (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates's net worth has risen to $50 billion, making him the world's richest person and widening his lead over No. 2 Warren Buffett, according to Forbes magazine's annual survey.

Gates's fortune increased 7.5 percent from $46.6 billion last year, while Buffett, 75, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., lost 4.8 percent to $42 billion. Gates, 50, has been at the top of the Forbes list for the last 12 years.

The rest of the top five were all from outside the U.S.: Mexico's Carlos Slim Helu, 66, whose companies include mobile- telephone carrier America Movil SA, rose to third from fourth, at $30 billion. Sweden's Ingvar Kamprad, 79, founder of Ikea, the world's biggest home furnishings retailer, jumped to fourth from sixth, with $28 billion; and India's Lakshmi Mittal, 55, chairman of Mittal Steel Co., fell to fifth from third, at $23.5 billion.

The magazine counted 793 billionaires around the globe, with a total net worth of $2.6 trillion, up 18 percent from last year largely because of strong stock performance, Forbes said.

New members of the billionaires' club include Christy Walton, 51, in 17th place, with a fortune of $15.9 billion. Her husband, John Walton, who died in a plane crash in 2005, was the son of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton.

Martha Stewart, who joined the billionaire ranks last year with a net worth of $1 billion, is no longer on the list. She was one of 39 who fell out of this year's compilation, Forbes said.

Top 10

Among the rest of the top 10, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, 53, moved up one spot to sixth, with a net worth of $22 billion. France's Bernard Arnault, 57, chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, the world's largest luxury-goods maker, vaulted to seventh place from 17th, with a $21.5 billion net worth.

Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, 49, fell to eighth place from fifth, as his fortune dipped to $20 billion from $23.7 billion last year.

Toronto-based Kenneth Thomson, 82, and his family, whose Thomson Corp. owns the Westlaw legal research and First Call stock-market data service, rose to ninth place from 15th, with $19.6 billion. Hong Kong investor Li Ka-shing, 77, rose to 10th, from 22nd, with $18.8 billion.

Europe had 15 new billionaires, including Petr Kellner, 41, owner of PPF Group NV, the biggest independent financial services company in the Czech Republic. Among other new billionaires were James Dyson, 58, founder of the namesake British vacuum cleaner company, and Suleiman Kerimov, 40, owner of Russian investment company OAO GNK Nafta Moskva, Forbes said.

New York Billionaires

The U.S. has the most billionaires, 371, followed by Germany at 55. New York is home to the most billionaires, with 40, followed by Moscow, at 25, and London, with 23.

Of the 793 billionaires on the list, 452 are described as self-made, meaning they didn't inherit their money. Seventy-eight are women, up from 68 in 2005, Forbes reported.

Hind Hariri, daughter of the assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, was the youngest billionaire at 22. She is eight months older than Prince Albert von Thurn und Taxis of Germany.

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