Billionaire Mukesh Ambani saw his wealth increase nearly 25% in the past year. And with that he has jumped six positions to rank 13th on the latest Forbes World's Billionaire list released yesterday. The 61-year-old Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries is now worth $50 billion, up from $40.1 billion in 2018, when he had stood in the 19th spot on the list. Back in 2017, he had come in way down on 33rd position among the world's richest.
"Ambani chairs and runs $60 billion (revenue) oil and gas giant Reliance Industries, among India's most valuable companies," said Forbes. "In 2016, Reliance sparked a price war in India's hyper-competitive telecom market with the launch of 4G phone service Jio", which has signed on "280 million customers" by offering free domestic voice calls, dirt-cheap data services and virtually free smartphones.
Not surprisingly, Ambani is way ahead of the other 105 billionaires from India on the Forbes list. Next in line is Wipro Chairman Azim Premji, who ranked 36th with a net worth of $22.6 billion, followed by HCL's co-founder Shiv Nadar (82nd rank) and ArcelorMittal Chairman and CEO Lakshmi Mittal (91st rank). According to the magazine, the "list is a snapshot of wealth using stock prices and exchange rates from February 8, 2019".
Outside the top 100, several more Indians find place on the 2019 rankings, including Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Birla (122), Chairman and founder of the Adani Group Gautam Adani (167), Bharti Airtel head Sunil Mittal (244), co-founder of consumer goods giant Patanjali Ayurveda Acharya Balkrishna (365), Piramal Entreprises Chair Ajay Piramal (436), Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (617), Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy (962) and Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani (1349). The 33rd annual ranking has 2,153 billionaires on the list - 1,450 of them are self-made - down from 2,208 in 2018.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos continues to hog the title of the world's richest man, with a net worth of $131 billion, ahead of Bill Gates (worth $96.5 billion) and Warren Buffett ($82.5 billion). Bezos' wealth reportedly swelled by $19 billion in the past one year. Meanwhile, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg dropped three spots to 8th rank on the Forbes list after losing $9 billion and yielded ground to Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, Zara and Inditex founder Amancio Ortega of Spain, and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison.
The total combined net worth of this year's billionaires is $8.7 trillion, down from $9.1 trillion in 2018. "This represents the first decrease in billionaires and their combined wealth since 2016 and only the second decrease in the past decade," said Forbes, adding, "The average net worth of this year's billionaires is $4 billion, down from $4.1 billion in 2018."
Among the regions, Asia-Pacific was the hardest hit, with 60 fewer 10-figure fortunes, and the dip was led by China. However, Europe, the Middle East and Africa also lost ground. The Americas, driven by a resurgent Brazil, and the US are the only two regions that currently boast more billionaires than they did a year ago. In fact, the US is home to a record 609 billionaires, including 14 of the world's 20 richest.
Sushmita Choudhury Agarwal with PTI input