Britain lags in the wealth stakes

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN has but five dollar billionnaires, fewer than Mexico, Brazil, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, according to an analysis of Forbes magazine's listing of the world's richest people.

In the plutocrat stakes, Britain and most other European countries are being left behind by many nations with far lower per capita incomes.

Indonesia, till recently one of the poorest countries in Asia, now boasts 10 people worth more than $1bn, thanks to the 900 per cent rocketing of the Jakarta stock exchange since 1990.

Hong Kong, with a population one-ninth the size of Britain's, has 12 billionnaires. Malaysia has seven, Thailand 12 and South Korea seven. Japan, savaged by the collapse in share prices and property values, is down to 35.

The US still leads, with 129 billionnaires - from Walter Annenberg to the Ziff family, both in publishing. Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, is now the world's richest man, Forbes reckons, worth $12.89bn (see page 3).

In Europe, only Germany comes close in tycoon numbers, with 47 billionnaires, led by Karl and Theo Albrecht, the founders of the Aldi discount grocery chain, which is now opening across Britain. Together they are worth $7.5bn.

France has 11 billionnaires. Switzerland, predictably, comes next with eight, then Greece with five.

The five flying the flag for Britain are the supermarkets boss David Sainsbury ($5.1bn); Garry Weston ($3.1bn) of Associated British Foods; the Littlewoods-owning Moores family ($1.7bn); the merchant banking Schroder family ($1.5bn); and the airline-to-cola entrepreneur Richard Branson ($1.2bn).

Forbes aggregates the French and British arms of the Rothschilds to come up with a banking and wine family worth $2.5bn.