THE number of billionaires around the world has reached a record high, with the wealthiest elite presiding over a fortune worth nearly £3,600,000,000,000 (£3.6tn) despite being similar in size to the population of Millport, according to newly published research.
The latest edition of the Forbes Billionaires List found that the cabal of just 1,426 individuals had increased their collective largesse by £800 billion over the past year.
At a time when ordinary household budgets are being squeezed by the rising cost of living, it means the group control a sum equivalent to more than a third of the annual output of the US, the world’s largest economy.
Hundreds of new names appear on the 2013 version of the list, having seen their bank accounts swell thanks to rebounding equity markets and strong consumer brands.
While Mexican telecoms magnate Carlos Slim topped the list thanks to his estimated worth of £48.4bn, the big losers included Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook, who plummeted 31 places to 66th after his fortune decreased by £2.8bn to £8.8bn.
Others to endure a testing year – at least when compared to their peers – include Warren Buffett, the US business magnate and philanthropist, who dropped outside of the top three for the first time since 2000, despite having £35.5bn in the bank, up £6.3bn on 2012.
However, none suffered losses on the scale of Eike Batista, a Brazilian business magnate who made his name in mining and oil and gas exploration. His bank balance fell by £12.9bn in the space of 12 months, the equivalent of more than £35m a day. Even so, he still made it into the top 100 with £7bn.
There was only one British entry in the top 100, with the Duke of Westminster, the UK’s wealthiest landowner, coming in at 89th place thanks to his fortune of £7.6bn.
Other British entries included retail behemoth Sir Philip Green, whose wealth of £3.3bn put him in 248th spot, while entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson came 276th with £3bn. In all, 37 people from the UK made the list.
Mr Slim retained his position as the world’s richest man for the fourth successive year, having increased his fortune by £2.7bn. Second place went to
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, with an estimated worth of £44.4bn. Spanish clothier Amancio Ortega, the man behind high-street chain Zara jumped two spots to third from his placing in 2012 with £37.8bn.
Membership to the illustrious billionaires’ club increased by 16 per cent on the previous year, with each entry boasting an average net worth of £2.5bn, up three per cent from 2012.
The US continued to be home to the most billionaires in the world, with 442 of them. It was followed by the Asia-Pacific region, home to 386 billionaires, and Europe, which despite widespread financial turmoil, can count on 366 members of the exclusive club.
Luisa Kroll and Kerry Dolan, who edit the list for Forbes, said: “Resurgent asset prices are the driving force behind the rising wealth of the super-rich around the globe. While last year almost as many fortunes fell as rose, this year gainers outnumbered losers by four to one.”