World’s Richest Lose $15 Billion as Buffett Beats Ortega

The 100 wealthiest people on the planet dropped $15.2 billion from their collective net worth this week as Cyprus struggled to ward off a financial collapse.

The biggest loser was Larry Ellison. The founder and CEO of software maker Oracle Corp. shed $4.4 billion from his fortune during the week. The Redwood City, California-based company fell the most since 2011 on Thursday after last quarter sales and profit missed analysts’ estimates. The 68-year-old ranks 8th in the world with a net worth of $38.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“The fact that Cyprus needs assistance is not new,” said Hans Olsen, head of New York-based investment strategy at Barclays Wealth Management, in a note to clients yesterday. “European policymakers have yet to develop the right financial, regulatory and structural cocktail to knock the debt virus from the tissue of their collective economy.”

European and Cypriot officials are locked in talks to avert the Mediterranean island’s financial demise. The finance chiefs are considering a plan to shutter the two biggest banks in Cyprus and freeze the assets of uninsured depositors. The European Central Bank has said it will cut off emergency funding to Cypriot banks at the end of Monday, March 25 unless there is a deal.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped 1.1 percent during the week, closing at 294.04. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost 0.2 percent to close at 1556.89 in New York.

Buffett, Ortega

Warren Buffett is once again the world’s third-richest person. The 82-year-old American investor regained the title on Wednesday after relinquishing it to Spanish retail tycoon Amancio Ortega in August. Buoyed by a 49 percent jump in fourth-quarter profit, shares of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. have rallied 14.7 percent this year, driving up Buffett’s fortune to $54.9 billion, $200 million ahead of Ortega.

The 76-year-old founder of the Zara clothing chain has seen his wealth decline amid fresh concern that Spain’s recession will hurt sales for his Inditex SA holding company. From a record high on Jan. 2, the shares have slumped 4.2 percent. He’s now worth $54.7 billion, down $2.8 billion for the year.

Mexican telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim, 73, remains the richest person in the world with a fortune of $70.7 billion. He finished the week up $2.9 billion after shares of his America Movil SAB, the largest wireless carrier in the Americas by subscribers, surged 8.4 percent amid an increase in share buybacks and optimism from its finance chief on Mexican telecommunications legislation.

The stock had plunged to its lowest price in almost four years last week.

High Valuations

Slim’s banking, mining and construction companies are so expensive that if they aligned with industry averages, he would relinquish the No. 1 position to Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, Bloomberg News reported Thursday. The wealth gap between between the two was $184 million last week, the closest it’s been since the index debuted in March 2012.

Gates, 57, remains the world second-richest person with a net worth of $67.3 billion.

Nike Inc. chairman Philip Knight gained $840 million. Shares of the world’s largest sporting-goods company surged the most in more than 20 months after the company eased investors’ concerns that its profitability and business in China were weakening. The stock rose 11.1 percent in trading yesterday for the largest intraday gain since 1982. The 75-year-old ranks 47th on the ranking with a net worth of $15.8 billion.

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 p.m. in New York and listed in U.S. dollars.

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