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Mexico's Slim tops Forbes list as richest billionaire

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Carlos Slim remains the richest person in the world with a fortune of $74 billion.

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NEW YORK -- Rising steel and oil prices in Russia, more honest disclosure in Brazil, and booming economies in China and India have fueled a spike in billionaires in the so-called BRIC countries.

Moscow is now home to the most billionaires with 79, followed by New York with 58, Forbes said in its annual list of the world's richest people.

The world's richest man, Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, retained his crown for the second year and made more money than any of the other 1,209 billionaires in the past year: $20.5 billion, taking his fortune to $74 billion.

The magazine said China nearly doubled its number of billionaires to 115, while Russia and Brazil posted two-thirds jumps to 101 and 30, respectively.

India added six billionaires, taking its total to 55, "but the average net worth … is huge -- $4.5 billion for an Indian billionaire versus $2.5 billion for a Chinese billionaire," said Forbes Chief Executive Steve Forbes.

Russia's billionaire growth was attributed to a commodities boom. Brazil's increase came from stricter disclosure rules and a stronger currency. In China and India, strong economies helped create billionaires from a range of industries.

Brazil, Russia, India, and China produced half the world's 214 new billionaires, double last year's 97 newcomers. The Asia Pacific was home to 105 newcomers, three-quarters of whom made their fortunes from stakes in public companies.

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates held on to second place, growing his wealth to $56 billion from $53 billion last year, and investor Warren Buffett again came in third with $50 billion, up from $47 billion.

Mr. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has fared better than Mr. Gates' Microsoft. Microsoft shares now trade about where they were a decade ago, while Berkshire shares have roughly doubled. Mr. Slim's major companies, which include Mexico's former state telecoms monopoly Telmex, have also seen stock price gains.

Forbes said that Mr. Gates would have still been the richest man in the world if he had not so far given $28 billion of his wealth to his foundation. He was only knocked off the top spot on the list twice between 1995 and 2010.

The wealth of the world's billionaires jumped 25 percent to $4.5 trillion and their average net worth rose to $3.7 billion from $3.5 billion. There were 47 people who dropped off the list, 42 who returned, and 10 people who died. The number of women grew to 102 from 89 last year. While positions have shifted, the top 20 were largely unchanged. New this year were Russian steel baron Vladimir Lisin, U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, and manufacturing and energy billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch.

The number of U.S. billionaires rose to 413 from 403, including three new Facebook Inc. billionaires -- Sean Parker, Eduardo Saverin, and Dustin Moskovitz -- who join founder Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook investor Peter Thiel.

Mr. Moskovitz is also the youngest billionaire in the world at 26 and with a fortune of $2.7 billion, while the honor of being the oldest goes to Swiss tech billionaire Walter Haefner, who is 100 and worth $4 billion.

Canadian David Thomson, who owns Thomson Reuters, widened his lead over his financial news and data rival, New York City Mayor and Bloomberg owner Michael Bloomberg.

Forbes ranked the billionaires' fortunes at the close of global stock markets on Feb. 14, 2011.

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