KUALA LUMPUR: Sugar king Tan Sri Robert Kuok has been ranked alongside Microsoft chief Steven Ballmer as the 33rd richest men in the world, each with a net worth of US$14.5 billion (RM48.14 billion), just ahead of US’ George Soros, at No 35 with a net worth of US$14 billion, according to Forbes’ world billionaires list.
Kuok, whose business empire covers palm oil, real estate, shipping and media, moved up from No 62 in 2009.
The other Malaysians on the list are T Ananda Krishnan (#89, US$7.6b), Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng (#189; US$4.4b), Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan (#277; US$3.4b), Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow (#277; US$3.4b); Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay & family (#421; US$2.3b), Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary (#655; US$1.5b), Tan Sri Vincent Tan (#828; US$1.2b) and Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King (#937; US$1b).
In a statement yesterday, Forbes said the world now had 1,011 billionaires compared with 793 last year.
The number of tycoons from the Asia-Pacific region with a 10-figure net worth soared to 234 this year from 130 in 2009 in its latest list, accounting for 23% of the 1,011 billionaires on the global list against 16% previously.
It said Asian billionaires’ combined wealth more than doubled to US$729 billion from US$357 billion last year and the rate of increase far outpaced that of European tycoons who saw their collective fortune rise by 50% while their US counterparts enjoyed only an 18% increase.
Of the Asian economies, China continues to lead the pack by more than doubling its number of billionaires to 64 from 28 last year, followed by India whose number of billionaires rose to 49 from 24 previously.
Third is Hong Kong with 25 billionaires, followed by 22 from Japan, 18 from Taiwan, 11 each from Australia and South Korea, nine from Malaysia, seven from Indonesia, five from Kazakhstan, four from Singapore, three each from New Zealand and Thailand, two from the Philippines, and one from Pakistan.
Of the 234 Asian tycoons on the list, 62 are first-time billionaires out of a total of 97 new billionaires in the world. This is a nine-fold increase from last year when Asia supplied only seven newcomers to the list of 38 new billionaires.
China accounts for the lion’s share of Asia’s first-time billionaires, supplying 27 new faces, followed by India with 11, Taiwan with 10, Hong Kong and Japan with three each, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea with two each, and Malaysia and Pakistan with one each.
(A check on Forbes’ website showed that three Malaysians — Syed Mokhtar, Tan and Tiong — were not on Forbes’ billionaire list 2009. However, they were in the 2008 list.)
This is the first time Pakistan is represented on the list. With a net worth of US$1 billion, Mian Muhammad Mansha is the owner of Nishal Group, Pakistan’s largest exporter of cotton clothes and its largest private employer.
Forbes said the richest man in the Asia-Pacific and fourth in the world rankings was Mukesh Ambani, head of Reliance Industries. Ranked seventh globally last year, the Indian national is valued at US$29 billion, up almost 50% from US$19.5 billion in 2009.
China’s richest man, beverage baron Zong Qinghou of Wahaha Group is ranked No 103 on the global list compared with No 376 previously. Zong is worth US$7 billion, compared with US$1.9 billion last year.
The richest Asian woman is Savitri Jindal from India. Jindal is worth US$12.2 billion and is ranked No 44 globally. Last year, she was worth US$2.7 billion and was placed No 234 globally. She controls the steel and power conglomerate O.P. Jindal Group.
The biggest gainer this year is Brazil’s iron ore magnate Eike Batista who scaled the ranks from No 61 last year to be the eighth richest man in the world. His net worth is US$27 billion, more than 2.5 times his wealth in 2009.
There are 89 women on the list this year, up from 72 last year. The richest woman in the world is Christy Walton of Walmart who, with her family, has a net worth of US$22.5 billion, up from last year’s US$17.6 billion. Walton maintained her rank at No 12.
The youngest billionaire is Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook from the United States. The 25-year-old is worth US$4 billion and is ranked No 212.
The oldest on the list is Swiss software tycoon Walter Haefer. The 99-year-old is valued at US$3.3 billion, up from US$2.7 billion last year. Haefer slipped the rankings from No 234 in 2009 to No 287 this year.
More on Forbes’ World’s Billionaires can be found in the March 29 issue of the magazine, which will be out on newsstands next week.
Interesting facts of Forbes rich list
• The list represents citizens from 55 countries.
• The top three two years ago still make up the top three this year, however:
- Carlos Slim Helu jumps from #3 to #1. It’s the first time since 1994 that a non-American billionaire has occupied the top spot.
- Gates drops from #1 to #2.
- Buffett drops from #2 to #3.
- Collectively, these three members of the Forbes list have gained US$41.5 billion over the past year. From 2008 to 2009, these three lost a collective US$68 billion.
• US citizens still dominate the ranks — but their grip is slipping. Americans accounted for 40% of the world’s 10-figure fortunes, down from 45% a year ago. The US commands 38% of the collective US$3.6 trillion net worth of the world’s billionaires, down from 44% in 2009.
• For the first time mainland China has the most billionaires outside the US, with 64. Including Hong Kong, it has 89. Russia has 62, a lot of them returnees who had fallen off last year’s list amid a meltdown in commodities.
• Americans still dominate the super rich, occupying seven of the Top 20 spots, down from 10 last year. But four have the last name Walton.
• 67% of the billionaires on this year’s list are considered self-made.
• New York City is home to the most billionaires with 60; Moscow is second with 50, while London slips to third with 32.
• Of the 97 new billionaires, only 16 are from the US. By contrast, Asia made big gains: the region added 62 new billionaires during the past year. Asia now trails Europe in total number of billionaires by only 14, thanks to several large public offerings and swelling stock markets.
This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, March 12, 2010.