World’s richest now $200bn better off

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THE richest people in the world added more than $200 billion (£122.7bn) to their collective net worth in 2012, according to a list of global billionaires.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 100 wealthiest individuals, found that members of the list whose fortunes were made in retail and telecommunications rose as much as 20 per cent in the year to the end of December. The total value of the 100 richest people on the planet was estimated at $1.9 trillion.

Mexican telecoms and construction magnate Carlos Slim, 72, is the world’s richest man, with an estimated net worth of $75.2bn. The value of his wealth rose 21.6 per cent.

He is followed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, 57, who has a $62.7bn fortune, the value of which rose 12.6 per cent in the year. The third – and the one whose growth in the value of his assets catapulted him dramatically up the league table – is Spaniard Amancio Ortega, 76, Europe’s richest man and owner of the Inditex retail group, which owns the high street shop Zara. He is worth $57.5bn, up 63 per cent on 2011.

Ortega ousted Warren Buffett, 82, out of third place to fourth. The “sage of Omaha” added $5.1bn to his $49.7bn net worth, even after donating $22.3 million worth of shares in his Berkshire Hathaway investment vehicle to charity. The billionaire spent much of the year pressing for higher taxes on the wealthy.

The world’s richest woman is Christy Walton, the widowed daughter-in-law of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. At 12th place, her fortune is estimated to be worth $28.4bn, up 13.1 per cent in the year.

As a measure of the resilience of the wealth held by the world’s richest people, only 16 of those in the top 100 the previous year actually lost money, Bloomberg said. The biggest loser on the list was the Brazilian commodities investor, Eike Batista, 56. He now ranks 75th in the world, falling from eigth place last year, with a mere $12.4 billion fortune.

The index takes measure of the wealthiest people based on market and economic changes and Bloomberg News reporting.