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Gates still world's richest; recession shrinks billionaires: Forbes
NEW YORK: US tycoons are back on top with Microsoft founder Bill Gates again the world's richest man in a year when even billionaires felt the heat of the global recession, Forbes magazine said on Wednesday.

The wealthy few did not escape big shocks this year, with net worth on the list of 793 billionaires — down from 1,125 billionaires in 2008 — plummeting to 2.4 trillion dollars from 4.4 trillion, Forbes said.

"The biggest news today is that we are here and there still are billionaires," Forbes spokeswoman Monie Begley joked at a press conference.

The much-watched annual rich list put Gates back on top with a net worth of 40 billion dollars, although he saw his bank balance lose 18 billion over the last 12 months.

In second came investor Warren Buffett with 37 billion dollars, despite losing 25 billion dollars this year in the value of his Berkshire Hathaway shares.

Also losing 25 billion dollars, Mexican telecoms king Carlos Slim still managed to come in third with 35 billion dollars.

The US surge sent billionaires from India, Russia and Turkey into retreat.

US rich filled 10 of the 20 top spots and New York replaced Moscow as home to most billionaires, with 55 to 27. London comes in second with 28.

Russia, where wealth is closely tied to commodity prices, lost almost two thirds of its billionaires, down from 87 to 32.

Russian oligarchs have long been famous for flaunting their wealth, but this year, none of them make it into the elite top 20, compared to four in the 2008 list.

India lost more than half of its billionaires, with the total going from 53 to 24.

Two Indians appear in the top 20, notably steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal with just 19.3 billion dollars after losing 25.7 billion dollars over the last year.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at number 17, was notable as the only top 20 member to see a net gain.

That was not because of his salary, which is a symbolic one dollar a year, but thanks to re-evaluation of Bloomberg financial news agency after the mayor bought a 20 percent stake from Merrill Lynch last year for 4.5 billion dollars.

About 64 percent of the billionaires are self-made and their average age is 63.7, a slight rise resulting from the lower number of rich Russians and Chinese, whose average ages last year were 46 and 48.

By contrast with that aging trend, Gates is a relatively youthful 53.

The youngest billionaire prize this year goes to Albert von Thurn und Taxis of Germany, who is 25 and listed as having 2.1 billion dollars.

But one of the young success stories from last year — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — dropped off the list altogether.

The top concentrations of billionaires in the United States are in California, then New York and Texas.

One billionaire unlikely to welcome the attention though is Joaquin Guzman Loera, 54, whose one billion dollars is derived from cocaine trafficking.

List of the world's 20 richest people, their wealth, businesses or interests, and countries, according to Forbes:

1. Bill Gates, 40 billion dollars. Microsoft, United States.

2. Warren Buffett, 37 billion dollars. Berkshire Hathaway, United States.

3. Carlos slim and family, 35 billion dollars. Telecoms, Mexico.

4. Lawrence Ellison, 22.5 billion dollars. Oracle, United States.

5. Ingvar Kamprad and family. 22 billion dollars. Ikea. Sweden.

6. Karl Albrecht, 21.5 billion dollars. Aldi, Germany.

7. Mukesh Ambani, 19.5 billion dollars. Petrochemicals, India.

8. Lakshmi Mittal, 19.3 billion dollars. Steel, India.

9. Theo Albrecht, 18.8 billion dollars. Aldi, Trader Joe's, Germany.

10. Amancio Ortega, 18.3 billion dollars. Zara, Spain.

11. Jim Walton, 17.8 billion dollars. Wal-Mart, United States.

12. Alice Walton, 17.6 billion dollars. Wal-Mart, United States.

12. Christy Walton and family, 17.6 billion dollars. Wal-Mart, United States.

12. S. Robson Walton, 17.6 billion dollars. Wal-Mart, United States.

15. Bernard Arnault, 16.5 billion dollars. LVMH, France.

16. Li Ka-shing, 16.2 billion dollars. Diversified, Hong Kong.

17. Michael Bloomberg, 16 billion dollars. Bloomberg, United States.

18. Stefan Persson, 14.5 billion dollars. Hennes and Mauritz, Sweden.

19. Charles Koch, 14 billion dollars. Manufacturing, energy, United States.

19. David Koch, 14 billion dollars. Manufacturing, energy. United States.

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