The richer list

Written by Dilip Bobb | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 9 2014, 03:56am hrs
Theres a line in F Scott Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsby, which goes, The rich get richer and the poor getchildren. Its a variation on the old catchphrase and aphorism often quoted when discussing economic inequality. It could actually also refer to the annual list of billionaires just released by Forbes magazine, where the rich have indeed gotten richer. The names and net worth of the worlds richest people provide some vicarious reading for the less fortunate, but we are in 2014, six years after the global economic crisis first hit, and the number of wealthy just keeps growing. As per the latest ranking, a record 1,645 billionaires made the list this year, with an average net worth of $4.7 billion. Thats up from 1,426 billionaires last year with a net worth of $4.2 billion. The total net worth of this years list was $6.4 trillion, up from $5.4 trillion last year. The fantastically rich are getting fantastically richer. Whats with the paradox Where is all this money and wealth coming from

The billionaire crop includes the usual suspects: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg, most of whom are in information technology, telecom or social media. That would be understandable, but heres the thing: a majority of the worlds billionaires are in traditional areas of businessreal estate, banking, retail, insurance, financial services, fashion, chocolates and candy, cement and sugar, media, liquor, oil, energy, metals and minerals, mining and the auto sector. These were prime areas of business half a century ago, and nothing much seems to have changed, so what impact is the global economic crisis really having and where It certainly has not put a brake on entrepreneurship. The list shows that 1,080 of the billionaires, or over two-thirds, were self-made, 207 inherited their wealth and 352 inherited a portion, but are still growing it.

Here are some more intriguing factsthe Asia-Pacific region produced 444 billionaires, the youngest billionaire hails from Hong Kong and, for the first time, an African made the ranks of the top 25 wealthiest people in the world. The takeaway Emerging markets are growing stronger and self-made money rules the top of the financial game. This year, an extra 268 billionaires made the list and four countriesAlgeria, Lithuania, Tanzania and Ugandamade their debut. Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian businessman, who made his wealth in cement, flour and sugar, ranked 23rd with a net worth of $25 billionthe first African to break into the top 25. China and the Asia-Pacific region posted some of the most intriguing numbers. China added 37 new faces to the list. The youngest billionaire on the list, 24-year-old Perenna Kei, is from Hong Kong. She owns 85% of Logan Property Holdings, giving her a net worth of $1.3 billion.

Heres one clue as to where all this wealth is coming fromthe latest version of Knight Franks Global House Price Index, which tracks prices in 53 countries, shows that as of Q3 2013, property prices have risen 4% from its 2008 peak. Thats 12.7% higher than values during the trough of the global financial crisis. Given the numbers, its not surprising that the total number of property tycoons on the list is 135, while 72 include real estate as a part of their diversified businesses. Country-by-country, the US boasts 29 real estate billionaires, the greatest number of any individual nation. Property values are rising globally, creating wealthand new billionairesacross the planet. And they are getting younger. Hong Kongs Kei Perenna Hoi Ting is one who made billionaire status before her 30th birthday. Kei is non-executive director of Logan Property Holdings. The company, founded by her father, has made a fortune

from property development in Chinas burgeoning market. Other young billionaires hail from countries ranging from Japan to Colombia, Germany and Switzerland, representing a diverse range of industries, everything from social gaming to polymers.

However, the biggest and most intriguing trend is the growing number of women on the billionaire list, which busts the myth about glass ceilings and gender discrimination. A record number of women have entered the global club of billionaires172 , up 25% on 2013. Women now make up 10% of the global super-rich. The worlds richest woman is Christy Walton, who shares a $36.7 billion chunk of the Walmart fortune, edging out one of LOreals principal shareholders, Liliane Bettencourt.

The list includes a new entrant, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, with a personal fortune worth more than $1billion. She joins Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard as the only other female tech billionaire. The others are all in traditional areas of business and include another debutante, Nigerian businesswoman Folorunsho Alakija. Her stake in Famfa Oil provides the bulk of her $2.5-billion fortune. According to Forbes, a record number of 42 women broke into the list for the first time and 32 of the 172 built their own fortune. One is Denise Coates, the British online gambling queen. She, along with her brother, owns Bet365, and has amassed $1.6 billion in personal wealth. Economic crisis notwithstanding, its clearly a good time to be rich.

The writer is Group Editor, Special Projects & Features,

The Indian Express