In March, Forbes will release its next billionaires list, a compendium of everyone who has at least nine zeroes in the accounting of their personal wealth. While there are still a few months before the big day, the magazine has started letting details trickle out about the newest additions to the list. As I reported earlier, one interesting aspect about these nouveau ultra-riche is the number of them who made their fortunes in fashion. Equally fascinating, however, is where some of the new billionaires hail from.
Admittedly, most of the list comes from three pretty unsurprising places: China, America, and Western Europe. The biggest new contributors are Italy, with five freshly minted billionaires this year, and China and the Netherlands, both of which have four. All told, Europe accounts for 22 of the 35 new inductees.
The big surprise, though, may be the six new billionaires from countries that you might not think of as particularly wealthy.
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In 2005, Mori Arkin sold Agis, his family's pharmaceutical firm, to U.S. based Perrigo (PRGO) for $390 million. At the time, he only took half the money in cash; the rest came in the form of Perrigo stock. If he had held onto the stock, it would be worth about $1 billion today. Instead, Arkin diversified, a path that led him to a fortune that, as of this year, is worth ... well, about $1 billion. Either way, Arkin is now one of 18 billionaires in Israel.
Zadik Bino, the other Israeli to join the Forbes list this year, originally hails from Iraq. But, although he's a transplant, Bino has certainly made his mark in Israel -- first in banking, then in oil. Today, he owns 45 percent of Paz, an Israeli oil company that is vertically integrated: Paz handles it all, from importing to refining to pumping the gas retail. Paz even owns the little convenience stores attached to its gas stations, which puts Bino's fingers in even more pies.
This year, the number of billionaires in Mexico will hit an even dozen with the addition of Rufino Vigil Gonzalez. His company, Industrias CH, is a massive steel concern that had over $2.3 billion in sales in 2011. As for Gonzalez, he has a 45 percent share in the company -- a holding that puts his personal wealth over $2.2 billion.
South Africa isn't exactly known for its wealth. In fact, before this year, the country only had four billionaires. In 2013, however, that number is poised to increase by 50 percent with the addition of two new member of the nine zero club. The first, Desmond Sacco, owns 33 million shares of Assore, one of the country's largest mining concerns. Those holdings, which work out to about a quarter of the company, were valued at $1.4 billion in 2013 -- more than enough to lift him into the ranks of the world's wealthiest people.
Stephen Saad, South Africa's other new billionaire, took a similar route to wealth to Mori Arkin: success in the pharmaceutical realm. His company, Aspen Pharmacare, is the largest drug company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and has manufacturing facilities on six continents. Saad relatively modest 11 percent stake is worth about $980 million, and his extensive real estate holdings push him over the billion dollar line.
If South Africa's two new billionaires are impressive, 40-year-old Isabel Dos Santos is truly remarkable. The daughter of Angola's president, Dos Santos has extensive shares in a variety of Portuguese companies, along with at least one bank in Angola. All told, her holdings are worth over $1 billion -- making her Angola's only billionaire and the only female billionaire on the entire continent of Africa.