Forbes calls them the “three-comma club”. To most of the world, they are known simply as billionaires. This exclusive club of the world’s super-rich is collectively worth $9.1 trillion, according to Forbes’ latest The World’s Billionaires report, an 18 percent increase from the 2017 list. This year, a record 2,208 billionaires – from 72 countries and territories, including Zimbabwe and Hungary for the very first time – feature on the list; America has the most (585), while mainland China is narrowing the gap in second place (373). This the first year that two Chinese businessmen have broken into the Top 20 spots on the list, and the honour goes to Tencent Holdings’ Chairman and CEO Pony Ma Huateng and Alibaba Group’s Founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma.
With a combined wealth of $84.3 billion, the two ‘Ma’s (unrelated to each other) have seen their personal net worths explode over the last year, buoyed by the excellent stock performance of their respective companies. Ma Huateng is the 17th-richest person in the world, and the richest person in Asia, with a personal net worth of $45.3 billion, driven by the ever-increasing popularity of Tencent’s WeChat social media platform. Tencent has sizeable stakes in several companies around the world, including electric vehicles manufacturer Tesla, Snapchat parent company Snap Inc., and music-streaming service Spotify. The company’s market capitalization on Monday, March 5, was $517 billion, making it one of the largest companies in the world.
Alibaba’s Jack Ma has also had a great 2017. Multiple high-value investments, including via the $100 billion mammoth Vision Fund, have helped push Alibaba’s stock price up by 76 percent over 2017, giving Jack a net worth of $39 billion and making him the 20th richest person in the world and the third-richest person in Asia. However, his personal fortune is eclipsed slightly by India’s own Mukesh Ambani.
Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Mukesh Ambani has a personal net worth of $40.1 billion, edging him a little ahead of Jack Ma to become the 19th richest man in the world and the second-richest Asian. RIL had a revenue of $51 billion in 2017, making it one of India’s most valuable companies; the company’s launch of Jio in September 2016 sparked off a price war in India’s telecom market, and the new phone service has gained 160 million customers since its launch. The robust fortunes of RIL reflect in Mukesh’s added wealth, and he – along with the Mas – personifies the growing economic clout of Asia in world markets.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has cemented his place as the world’s richest person, with a personal net worth of $112 billion. He is the first person to enter the list with a 12-figure net worth, and his gain of $39 billion from 2017 is the largest one-year gain ever seen on the list. He ended Bill Gates’ three-year-run at the top of the list, who moved down to second place with a personal net worth of $90 billion. The $22 billion gap between the two men is the biggest gap in the top two spots since 2001.
The 2018 World’s Billionaires list has 259 new entrants, including the first-ever cryptocurrency billionaires – Chris Larsen, Co-founder of Ripple, with a net worth of $4.6 billion, and Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance, with a net worth of $1.4 billion. 256 women joined the list this year, an all-time record and their collective net worth crossed the $1 trillion mark. 72 of these women – a full quarter of the total female representation – are self-made entrepreneurs. Alice Walton, the only daughter of Walmart Founder Sam Walton is the richest woman in the world, with a personal fortune of $46 billion making her the 16th richest person in the world. The list also saw 121 past names disappear, including all 10 Saudi Arabians from 2017.