New York - The global ranks of billionaires grew by 199 people in the past year, but none came close to unseating Carlos Slim of Mexico, the world's richest man, who added $20.5 billion (R142 billion) to his coffers, according to Forbes magazine's annual tally.
The number of people on Forbes' list climbed to 1210 billionaires, setting a record with combined wealth of $4.5 trillion (R31 trillion), up from $3.6 trillion (R25 trillion) a year ago. While the biggest slice of that wealth, $1.5 trillion (R10.4 trillion), is controlled by people in the US, the publication said more than half of the new billionaires came from Brazil, Russia, India and China. In China, there are now 115 billionaires, the richest among them Robin Li, who is worth $9 billion (R62 billion).
At the top of the list for the consecutive year in a row is Mexican telecom magnate Slim, whose fortune climbed to $74 billion (R511 billion) on strength in the Mexican stock market, a stronger peso and successful business spinoffs, Forbes said. The majority of his net worth comes from his holdings in America Movil, Latin America's largest phone service provider.
No.2 on the list is Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and now a fulltime philanthropist, who has a net worth of $56 billion (R387 billion). Forbes noted that Gates, once the world's wealthiest man, had given $30 billion (R207 billion) to the Gates Foundation.
The rebound in the stock market helped investor Warren Buffett's wealth increase to $50 billion (R345 billion). The return of people's appetite for luxury goods pushed LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault up from No.7 on the list to to No.4, with a net worth of $41 billion (R283 billion).
While there was some jostling for position, the makeup of the top 10 on Forbes' list was almost unchanged. Christy Walton, whose father-in-law Sam Walton and his brother founded Wal-Mart, displaced Germany's Karl Albrecht at No.10. Walton, one of 102 women on the list in 2011, saw her net worth climb to $26 billion (R180 billion).
Albrecht, who owns a discount supermarket company called Aldi Sud, saw his wealth increase to $25.5 billion (R176 billion), putting him at No.12.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of the popular social networking site Facebook, had the fastest-growing net worth, Forbes said - it more than tripled to $13.5 billion (R93 billion), earning him the No.52 spot on the list. Another Facebook employee, Dustin Moskovitz, made his debut as the youngest billionaire on the list, with $2.7 billion (R18.7), putting him at No.420. He is 26 years old.
Overall, Forbes said 648 of the billionaires' wealth increased in the past year, while 160 of the world's wealthiest had declining fortunes. The rest were unchanged.