Bill Gates ranks as the world's richest private citizen with an $18 billion fortune from his Microsoft Corp. software empire, but a growing number of Asian billionaires are gaining on him, Forbes magazine reports.
In the magazine's annual billionaires ranking released Sunday, Forbes estimated Gates' worth grew 40% from $12.9 billion last year, making him the wealthiest billionaire for the second straight year. The increase was due largely to the higher value of Microsoft stock.
No. 2 for the second straight year was Omaha, Neb., investor Warren Buffett, now worth $15.3 billion, up 43% from a year earlier. The only other American among the top 10 was Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, holding eighth place at $7.5 billion.
But perhaps more significant about the richest list is that half the top 10 are Asian, reflecting the growing prominence and economic might concentrated in that part of the world.
Asia's contribution to global economic output has risen from 17% in 1980 to 25% today. Of the 447 billionaires counted by Forbes, 123 are Asian.
"It's Asia's turn," Forbes said. "Asia, largely a backward area at the end of World War II, is home to more than one in four of the world's great fortunes."
The third-richest person with $13.1 billion is retired Swiss industrialist Paul Sacher, said to still play an influential role at the Roche pharmaceutical giant.
Hong Kong real estate mogul Lee Shau Kee is the highest ranking Asian, coming in fourth with $12.7 billion. He dethroned property-transportation magnate Yoshiaki Tsutsumi of Japan, who fell to seventh place with $9.2 billion.
The world's richest woman by Forbes' ranking is Liliane Bettencourt, heir to the cosmetics empire L'Oreal, who is worth $5 billion.
Rankings appear in the July 15 issue and Forbes based calculations on assets as of June 10.
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Top 10 Billionaires
World's richest 10 individuals, as compiled by Forbes magazine, listed in billions of dollars with source of wealth and nationality.
* $18.0, Bill Gates, computer software, U.S.
* $15.3, Warren Buffett, stocks, U.S.
* $13.1, Paul Sacher, pharmaceuticals, Switzerland
* $12.7, Lee Shau Kee, real estate, Hong Kong
* $12.2, Tsai Wan-lin, insurance, financial services, Taiwan
* $10.6, Li Ka-shing, diversified, Hong Kong
* $9.2, Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, real estate, transportation, Japan
* $7.5, Paul Allen, computer software, U.S.
* $7.4, Kenneth Thomson, media, retailing, real estate, Canada
* $7.0, Tan Yu, real estate, Philippines