Asia overtakes Europe in billionaire table

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 March, 2011, 12:00am

The latest Forbes rich list shows Asia has displaced Europe in the billionaire league table.

There are now 1,210 billionaires in the world from 1,011 in 2010, a record surpassing the previous high of 1,125 in 2008.

Underscoring the growing economic might of countries in Asia-Pacific, the region had more billionaires than Europe for the first time in more than 10 years - 332 from Asia compared with 300 in Europe.

Asia-Pacific also recorded the fastest regional growth in wealth, bringing in 105 newcomers to the list, among the 214 billionaires who made their debut.

China is the fastest-growing country for billionaires - the number of billionaires almost doubled from 65 to 119. There are 54 Chinese newcomers on the list. Moscow displaced New York as the city with the greatest number of billionaires with 79, compared with New York's 58.

However, the West still dominates the top of the chart when it comes to absolute wealth. There are 413 billionaires in the US with a net worth of US$1.5 trillion, up from the 403 in 2010 with US$1.3 trillion. It is followed by Europe, where 300 billionaires add up to a net worth of US$1.3 trillion, up from 248 billionaires in 2009 with a net worth of US$1 trillion. In Asia-Pacific, the 332 billionaires are worth US$996 billion, compared with 234 billionaires in 2010 worth US$729 billion.

The top three richest people in the world remain Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

Telecoms guru Slim, 71, has a total net worth of US$74 billion. But the richest person in the world lives a simple life - he has been living in the same house for 40 years. Slim is known for his active involvement in fighting poverty in Latin America.

Microsoft founder Gates now boasts a net worth of US$56 billion. Gates, 55, stepped down from Microsoft in 2008 and injected US$28 billion into the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Buffett's net worth soared to US$50 billion in 2011. In 2006, he pledged to donate 99 per cent of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and family charities.

Buffett and the Gates couple have convinced 57 other US billionaires to make a public vow to give away at least half of their fortune during their lifetime or upon their death.

Search website Baidu founder Robin Li, the richest person in China, ranked 95th on the Forbes list. The share price of US-listed Baidu soared in 2010, giving Li a net worth of US$9.4 billion.

The second-richest person in China is Sany Group chairman Liang Wengen, whose wealth adds up to US$8 billion. The 54-year-old manufacturer is ranked 114 on the Forbes list and sits on a US$5.9 billion fortune.

Self-made billionaire Zong Qinghou, founder of China's largest beverage producer Wahaha, was crowned the third-richest person in China and is ranked 169th in the overall list. Zong recently deflected criticism of the rich in China for not being generous in helping the poor by saying that hard work was the key for poor people to help themselves out of poverty.

The number of billionaires in Hong Kong increased from 25 to 36. Li Ka-shing was ranked the 11th-richest person in the world by Forbes.

At 82, Li has boosted his net worth to US$26 billion.

Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, Raymond Kwok Ping-luen and family ranked 23rd on the list, with a value of US$20 billion. Developer Lee Shau-kee is ranked 83rd with US$19 billion, making him the third-richest person in Hong Kong.