To the victor, the spoils. Back in 2007, the last surge in emerging markets stocks before the credit crisis briefly made Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms magnate, the richest man.

Then the crisis supervened. Emerging markets sold off more than others and he was overtaken again by Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway and Bill Gates of Microsoft.

With markets safe for risk takers once more in the past 12 months, Mr Slim could no longer be denied, and on Thursday Forbes confirmed he was the wealthiest man with $53.5bn (€39bn).

The top 10 includes a Brazilian and two Indians. China and Russia have more billionaires than anywhere outside the US with 64 and 62 respectively.

At first glance this is good news for the emerging markets. Certainly the rise in the price that investors will pay for stocks like Mr Slim’s América Móvil has much to do with the increase in his wealth.

But maybe not.

First, Mr Slim benefits from what Mr Buffett calls a wide moat. Many of his companies are state-protected monopolies or continued to be formal monopolies long enough for him to build an insuperable competitive position.

Mexicans may not feel wildly happy about his wealth when they pay their phone bills.

The rich list is dominated by Slim-style or Buffett-style investors rather than entrepreneurs.

The secret of successful investing has always been to find inefficient markets and exploit them.

Emerging markets, for all their development in recent years, still offer more market inefficiencies than the rest of the world.

That is reason to entrust money to canny investors who understand the emerging markets.

But it is not such good news for people who live in those economies.


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