The aggregate net worth of the world's top moguls stood at US$1.9 trillion at the market close on Dec 31, according to the index. Retail and telecommunications fortunes surged about 20 per cent 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, 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 the US - 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 US$22.2 billion to US$57.5 billion, according to the index, as shares of Inditex, operator of the Zara clothing chain, rose 66.7 per cent.
"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."
Carlos Slim, 72, the telecoms magnate who controls Mexico's America Movil SAB, maintained his title as the richest person on Earth for the entire year. His net worth rose US$13.4 billion - or 21.6 per cent - through Dec 31, making him the second-biggest gainer by dollars.
US software mogul Bill Gates, 57, ranks second on the list, trailing Mr Slim by US$12.5 billion. The Microsoft co-founder added US$7 billion to his net worth as shares of the Redmond, Washington-based company rose 2.9 per cent. Microsoft stock accounts for less than 20 per cent of the billionaire's fortune.
Warren Buffett, 82, lost his title as the world's third-richest man to Mr Ortega on Aug 6. The Berkshire Hathaway chairman gained US$5.1 billion during the year, even after donating 22.3 million Berkshire Class B shares in July to charity.
IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, 86, is the world's fifth-richest person with a US$42.9 billion fortune. His net worth rose 16.6 per cent in 2012.
Brazil's Eike Batista, 56, was the year's biggest loser by dollars, falling US$10.1 billion. The commodities maven, who vowed a year ago that he would become the world's wealthiest man by 2015, sold a 5.63 per cent stake in his EBX Group Co in March to Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Co.
Mr Batista now ranks 75th in the world with a US$12.4 billion net worth. On March 27, he was worth US$34.5 billion and ranked 8th on the Bloomberg index.
Mr Batista's former title as the richest Brazilian is now held by 73-year-old banker Jorge Paulo Lemann, who ranks 37th on the index with an US$18.8 billion fortune. The country's second-richest person is Dirce Camargo, the matriarch behind Camargo Correa SA, the Sao Paulo- based conglomerate that has interests in cement, electricity and Havaianas flip-flops. Her net worth is US$13.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg ranking.
Oracle Corp founder Larry Ellison's worth rose US$6.4 billion in 2012 as shares of the world's largest database company jumped 31.7 per cent. Mr Ellison, 68, who has more than tripled the amount of Oracle stock he has pledged against lines of credit in the last year, agreed to buy 98 per cent of Hawaii's Lanai island. The 365-square-kilometre parcel with no traffic lights was purchased from billionaire David Murdock, the 89-year-old chairman of Dole Food Co, the world's largest producer of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Bernard Arnault, France's richest man, gained US$8.1 billion as shares of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA and its publicly traded holding company Christian Dior SA soared.
In May, the LVMH chairman's net worth was lowered US$15 billion on the index because of the way his ownership stake in the world's largest luxury- goods company is structured.
Amazon.com Inc chief executive Jeff Bezos, 48, added US$6.9 billion to his net worth as shares of the world's largest online retailer rose 45 per cent. The four heirs to the Wal-Mart Stores Inc fortune - Jim Walton, Christy Walton, Alice Walton and Rob Walton - gained a combined US$13.5 billion. Stefan Persson, chairman of Swedish clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB, added US$2.7 billion.
Sheldon Adelson, gambling's richest man, gained US$2.8 billion. The 79-year-old chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp, which operates casinos in Macau, Singapore and the US, received US$1.2 billion in December when the company paid a special dividend of US$2.75 per share. More than half of the company's revenue comes from Macau.
Lui Che Woo, founder of Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, was the biggest winner on the index by percentage gain. His fortune more than doubled to US$11.9 billion. The company plans to invest as much as HK$50 billion (S$8 billion) to expand a Macau resort as the casino operator seeks to draw more Chinese tourists to the world's largest gambling hub.
Asia's richest man, Li Ka-Shing, rose US$6.4 billion. The 84-year-old chairman of Hong Kong property developer Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd ranks 11th on the list with a net worth of US$28.6 billion.
Zong Qinghou, head of China's third-largest beverage maker, became the country's richest man in September after disclosing that his stake in closely held Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co was more than double previous estimates.
The 67-year-old soda and juice tycoon owns more than 80 per cent of Wahaha, company spokesman Shan Qining said. Mr Zong's net worth is US$15.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg ranking. He is US$8.4 billion wealthier than Robin Li, founder of Baidu Inc, China's biggest search engine operator.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg lost US$5.2 billion during the year after the company's shares fell 30 per cent following its May initial public offering. Investors sued Facebook, the operator of the world's largest social network, after its stock dropped in the wake of what was the largest technology IPO in history. The investors claim the Menlo Park, California- based company failed to disclose discussions it had with underwriters' analysts about advertising revenue. - Bloomberg