Bill Gates becomes world’s richest person again

Microsoft founder’s fortune was estimated at $78.5 billion last year

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has recaptured the title of world's richest person with estimated fortune of $78.5 billion.

The 58-year-old tycoon’s fortune increased by $15.8 billion last year, according to the index, as shares of Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, rose 40 per cent.

Gates regained top spot from Mexican investor Carlos Slim, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world's 300 wealthiest individuals.

Gates's fortune has also benefited from a rally in stock holdings that include the Canadian National Railway and sanitising products maker Ecolab, which rose 34 per cent and 45 per cent respectively.


The richest people on the planet got even richer in 2013, adding $524 billion to their collective net worth, according to the index.

The aggregate net worth of the world’s top billionaires stood at $3.7 trillion at the market close on December 31st, according to the ranking. The biggest gains came in the technology industry, which soared 28 per cent during the year.

Of the 300 people who appeared on the final ranking of 2013, only 70 registered a net loss for the 12-month period. "The rich will keep getting richer in 2014," John Catsimatidis, the billionaire founder of real estate and energy conglomerate Red Apple Group, said. "Interest rates will remain low, equity markets will keep rising, and the economy will grow at less than 2 per cent."

Global stocks soared in 2013 for the best annual gain since 2009, with the MSCI World Index advancing 24 per cent during the year to close at 1,661.07 on December 31st.

The Standard and Poor's 500 Index rose 30 per cent to close at 1,848.36, its best yearly gain since 1997. The Stoxx Europe 600 gained 17 per cent to close at 328.26. Companies in the SandP 500 are worth $3.7 trillion more today than they were 12 months ago following a year when US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke signalled the curtailment of economic stimulus.

The bull market, born at the depths of the credit crisis, enters its sixth year fuelled by near-zero interest rates and conviction among investors that it’s finally safe to own equities again.

Sheldon Adelson, founder of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, the world's largest casino company, was the second-biggest gainer in 2013, adding $14.4 billion to his net worth as the company's shares rose 71 per cent.

Slim lost $1.4 billion during 2013. His America Movil SAB, the largest mobile-phone operator in the Americas, dropped 12 per cent in the first three months of the year after Mexico's Congress passed a bill to quash the billionaire's market dominance.

The company finished the year up 2 per cent after a planned expansion into Europe was reined in, reassuring investors who were leery about the billions of dollars in investment the strategy would require.