World's mega-rich adding wealth, Carlos Slim No. 1

Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:49pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim is the world's richest person, knocking Microsoft founder Bill Gates into second spot, as the wealth of the world's billionaires grew by 50 percent over the last year, Forbes magazine said on Wednesday.

It is only the second time since 1995 that Gates has lost the crown, the magazine said, estimating Slim's net worth at $53.5 billion, compared to Gates's $53 billion fortune, while investor Warren Buffett came in at No. 3 with $47 billion.

The trio regained $41.5 billion of the $68 billion they had lost the previous year, Forbes said.

The number of billionaires around the world has nearly recovered in 2010 after dropping by a third last year during the global financial crisis. There are now 1,011 billionaires, compared with 793 last year and 1,125 in 2008.

The net wealth of those billionaires grew to $3.6 trillion from $2.4 trillion last year, but is still down from 2008's $4.4 trillion, according to the 24th annual Forbes list, which took a snapshot of wealth on February 12 to compile its ranking.

The average billionaire is now worth $3.5 billion, up $500 million from last year. And the number of women on the list rose to 89 from 72 last year.

"The global economy is recovering and it's reflected in what you see in the list this year," Steve Forbes, chief executive of Forbes, told a news conference. "Financial markets have also made an even more impressive comeback from the lows of just about a year ago, particularly in emerging markets."

"Asia is leading the comeback," Forbes said.   Continued...

<p>1: Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico has knocked Bill Gates out of the top spot on the latest Forbes list of the World's Richest People. Helu has a net worth of $53.5 billion. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque</p>