Bill Gates is once again the world's richest person. The 57-year-old cofounder of Microsoft recaptured the title from Mexican investor Carlos Slim, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as the software maker hit a five-year high. It is the first time Gates has held the mantle since 2007. His fortune is valued at $72.7 billion, up 16% year-to-date.
Slim's America Movil, the largest mobile-phone operator in the Americas, has dropped 14% this year after Mexico's Congress passed a bill that could quash the billionaire's market dominance. That's helped erase more than $3 billion from the 73-year-old tycoon's net worth.
"When they're talking about reform in a country that's generally poor, and the guy shows up No. 1 on the list — not a good thing," said Greg Lesko, managing director at New York-based Deltec Asset Management, which oversees $750 million and has an "underweight" position in Slim's flagship company. "He's had a pretty good monopoly situation in Mexico, and the Mexican cellphone user has been paying more than he should. We applaud it for the country."
Earlier this month, a group of kazoo-playing protesters confronted Slim when he appeared at an event at the New York Public Library, denouncing him for overcharging consumers to enrich himself. He denies the accusation.
The bill passed in Mexico last month, which is backed by President Enrique Pena Nieto and is now before state legislatures , would allow regulators to break up phone companies with more than 50% of the market or force them to share their networks. America Movil has 70% of Mexico's mobile-phone subscribers and 80% of the country's landlines.
Microsoft shares have surged 28% this year, buoyed by cost controls and sales of business and server software amid weak demand for personal computers running the new Windows 8 operating system. Gates's fortune has also benefited from a rally in stock holdings that include the Canadian National Railway Co and waste-collection company Republic Services.