Bill Gates is once again the world's richest person. The 57-year-old co-founder of Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp recaptured the title from Mexican investor Carlos Slim yesterday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as the software maker hit a five-year high. It is the first time Gates has held the mantle since 2007. His fortune is valued at $72.7 billion, up 16 per cent year-to-date.
Slim's America Movil SAB, the largest mobile-phone operator in the Americas, has dropped 14 per cent this year after Mexico's Congress passed a Bill that could quash the billionaire's market dominance. That's helped erase more than $3 billion from the 73-year-old tycoon's net worth.
"When they're talking about reform in a country that's generally poor, and the guy shows up No. 1 on the list - not a good thing," said Greg Lesko, managing director at New York-based Deltec Asset Management LLC, which oversees $750 million and has an "underweight" position in Slim's flagship company. "He's had a pretty good monopoly situation in Mexico, and the Mexican cellphone user has been paying more than he should. We applaud it for the country." Earlier this month, a group of kazoo-playing protesters confronted Slim when he appeared at an event at the New York Public Library, denouncing him for overcharging consumers to enrich himself. He denies the accusation.
The Bill passed by in Mexico last month, which is backed by President Enrique Pena Nieto and is now before state legislatures, would allow regulators to break up phone companies with more than 50 per cent of the market or force them to share their networks. America Movil has 70 per cent of Mexico's mobile-phone subscribers and 80 per cent of the country's landlines.
Microsoft shares have surged 28 per cent this year, buoyed by cost controls and sales of business and server software amid weak demand for personal computers running the new Windows 8 operating system. Gates's fortune has also benefited from a rally in stock holdings that include the Canadian National Railway Co and waste-collection company Republic Services Inc.
Most of Gates's fortune is held in Cascade Investment LLC, a holding entity through which he owns stakes in more than a dozen publicly traded companies and several closely held operations, including Four Seasons hotels and Corbis Corp. Less than a quarter of Gates's fortune is held in Microsoft. He's donated $28 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bridgitt Arnold, a spokeswoman for Gates, didn't return a phone call seeking comment. Arturo Elias, Slim's spokesman, didn't return phone and e-mail messages.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc chairman Warren Buffett is the world's third-richest person with $59.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg ranking. He is $3.7 billion ahead of Spaniard Amancio Ortega, Europe's wealthiest person. Google Inc co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have seen their fortunes rise more than 22 per cent year-to-date as shares of world's most popular search provider have surged. They rank No. 18 and No. 19, respectively.
The Bloomberg Billionaires Index takes measure of the world's wealthiest people based on market and economic changes and Bloomberg News reporting. Each net worth figure is updated every business day at 5:30 pm in New York and listed in US dollars.