Billionaires worth $1.9 trillion seek global 'advantage' in 2013

, Bloomberg

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The richest people on the planet got even richer in 2012, adding $241 billion to their collective net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world's 100 wealthiest individuals.

The aggregate net worth of the world's top moguls stood at $1.9 trillion at the market close on Dec. 31, according to the index. Retail and telecommunications fortunes surged about 20 percent on average during the year. Of the 100 people who appeared on the final ranking of 2012, only 16 registered a net loss for the 12-month period.

"Last year was a great one for the world's billionaires," said John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of Red Apple Group Inc., in an email written poolside on his BlackBerry in the Bahamas. "In 2013, they will continue looking for investments around the world — and not necessarily in U.S. — that will give them an advantage."

Amancio Ortega, the Spaniard who founded retailer Inditex SA, was the year's biggest gainer. The 76-year-old tycoon's fortune increased $22.2 billion to $57.5 billion, according to the index, as shares of Inditex, operator of the Zara clothing chain, rose 66.7 percent.

"It's an amazing company that has done great and the gains are quite justified given its performance," said Christodoulos Chaviaras, an analyst at Barclays Plc in London who's had an "equalweight" rating on Inditex for about a year. "Can they repeat that? It will be harder. A lot of the positive news is already reflected in the share price."

Market Performance

Global stocks soared in 2012. The MSCI World Index gained 13.2 percent during the year to close at 1338.50 on Dec. 31. The Standard and Poor's 500 Index rose 13.4 percent to close at 1426.19.

European stocks surged in the second half of the year. The Stoxx Europe 600 is up 19.6 percent since June 4, advancing as the European Central Bank introduced bond-buying programs, S&P upgraded Greece's debt and German business confidence rose more than forecast. The benchmark gauge's 14.4 percent advance for the year was the best annual return since 2009.

Carlos Slim, the telecommunications magnate who controls Mexico's America Movil SAB, maintained his title as the richest person on Earth for the entire year. The 72-year-old's net worth rose $13.4 billion — or 21.6 percent — through Dec. 31, making him the second-biggest gainer by dollars.

Gains by Slim's industrial conglomerate, Grupo Carso SAB, and Grupo Financiero Inbursa, his banking and insurance operation, more than offset the decline posted by America Movil, his biggest holding. The largest mobile phone operator in the Americas by subscribers fell 5.8 percent to close at 14.9 pesos at the end of the year.

'Wireless Penetration'

"America Movil is no longer the growth story that it has been, given the increase in Latin American wireless penetration over the last five years," said Chris King, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in Baltimore, Maryland. "It continues to generate a very high amount of cash flow and has the best set of telecom assets across Latin America."

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