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World’s richest add US$92b to fortunes

Via New Straits Times : THE richest people on Earth got richer this year, adding US$92 billion (RM322 billion) to their collective fortune in the face of falling energy prices and geopolitical turmoil incited by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The net worth of the world’s 400 wealthiest billionaires stood at US$4.1 trillion on Monday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s richest.

The biggest gainer was Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, China’s largest e-commerce company. Ma added US$25.1 billion to his fortune, riding a 56 per cent surge in the company’s shares since its September initial public offering. Ma, with a US$28.7 billion fortune, briefly passed Li Ka-shing as Asia’s richest person.

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“I am nothing but happy when young people from China do well,” Li, 86, said.

Global stocks rose this year, with the MSCI World Index advancing 4.3 per cent during the year to close at 1,731.71 on Monday. The Standard and Poor’s 500 Index rose 13 per cent to close at 2,090.57. The Stoxx Europe 600 gained 4.9 per cent to close at 344.27.

Two of the year’s other biggest gainers were Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg of the United States. Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, added US$13.7 billion to his net worth after the Omaha, Nebraska-based company soared 28 per cent as the dozens of operating businesses the 84-year-old chairman bought over the past five decades churned out record profit.

Buffett passed Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim on December 5 to become the world’s second-richest person. Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp, was up US$9.1 billion during the year. The 59-year-old remains the world’s richest person with a US$87.6 billion fortune.

Zuckerberg, the hoodie-wearing chief executive officer of the world’s largest social-networking company, gained US$10.6 billion as the Menlo Park, California-based business rose to a record last Monday.

This year Facebook made headway in mobile, a business that has flourished as mobile advertising increased and marketing initiatives expanded with applications and video.

Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012 for US$1 billion has also been paying off: A Citigroup Inc analyst said on December 19 the photo-sharing app is worth US$35 billion.

Nobody was hit harder than Vladimir Evtushenkov. Once Russia’s 14th-richest person, the 66-year-old lost 80 per cent of his wealth, dropping him from the Bloomberg ranking. He was sentenced to house arrest by a Moscow court in September after a money-laundering investigation connected to the US$2.5 billion purchase of shares in oil producer OAO Bashneft.

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