Switzerland comes up with more billionaires

Ernesto Bertarelli was ranked the richest Swiss by Forbes Keystone

The number of super rich Swiss who made it into the Forbes list of the world's billionaires has increased to 12 people.

This content was published on March 6, 2008 minutes

Topping the list of the 1,125 wealthiest men and women around the globe is United States investor Warren Buffett with a net worth of $62 billion (SFr64 billion). He outranks Mexican telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim and Microsoft's Bill Gates.

There were four more Swiss billionaires compared with last year's inventory published by the US-based magazine on Thursday. Switzerland is also home to 15 foreigners figuring on the list.

With a net worth of $10 billion, Ernesto Bertarelli is the richest Swiss national. The 42-year-old biotech billionaire was credited with turning the Serono company into a global leader before selling it in 2006 to Merck.

Hansjörg Wyss, self-made billionaire and owner of Swiss-based Synthes medical implants and biomaterials company, is next in line with assets totalling $6 billion.

The Schmidheiny brothers follow close behind. As former chairman of Holcim, the world's second largest cement firm, Thomas Schmidheiny is worth $5.2 billion, and his brother Stephan, a Zurich investor and art collector, has assets worth $3.7 billion.

His fortune is almost matched by the chairman of the Swatch Group, Nicolas G. Hayek, who has built up $3.6 billion in assets after merging two struggling watchmaking groups.

Other Swiss billionaires include Amag car importer Walter Haefner, Globus travel firm owner Sergio Mantegazza and MSC container ship magnates Gianluigi and Rafaela Aponte.

Tax exiles

The richest person in Switzerland remains Swedish furniture magnate Ingvar Kamprad. Despite his Ikea fortune valued at $31 billion, the resident of Epalinges near Lausanne slid down the Forbes table from fourth to seventh.

Kamprad is one of 15 foreign billionaires in the country to make the Forbes list, with others accumulating fortunes in areas such as diamond retailing, oil, banking, pharmaceuticals and shipping.

A 2007 survey by the consultancy group KPMG found more wealthy foreigners were flocking to Switzerland to take advantage of lump sum tax arrangements offered by many cantons. The number of tax exiles reached 4,175 in 2006, up from 2,394 in 2003, the statistics showed.

The average age of the billionaire group is 61. Its youngest member is 23-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, founder of the Facebook social networking website and today worth $1.5 billion.

The collective net wealth of those on the Forbes list totals $4.4 trillion and the number of billionaires has practically doubled over the past four years.

The largest number live in the US and Russia, with Moscow now the world capital of billionaires.

swissinfo with agencies

Richest Swiss

Ernesto Bertarelli (Rank 75) - $10 billion (SFr10.29 billion)
Hansjörg Wyss (164) - $6 billion
Thomas Schmidheiny (198) - $5.2 billion
Stephan Schmidheiny (288) - $3.7 billion
Walter Haefner (296) - $3.6 billion
Nicolas G. Hayek (296) - $3.6 billion
Bahaa Hariri (349) - $3.2 billion
Sergio Mantegazza (358) - $3.1 billion
Gianluigi and Rafaela Aponte (412) - $2.8 billion
Jean-Claude Gandur (652) - $1.9 billion
Thomas Straumann (843) - $1.4 billion

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