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THE number of billionaires in leading emerging economies has surpassed the number of those in Europe for the first time and is quickly closing in on the US, according to new figures from Forbes.

The US still has the world's most billionaires with 413 individuals with a total net worth of $1,500bn.

At the beginning of this year, the Brics countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – had 301 billionaires, 108 more than in the previous year, and one more than Europe. Booming commodity prices have helped Russian billionaires, in particular.

As the world economy recovered, the number of billionaires rose to a record 1,210 in 2011.

In Asia, the number of billionaires has nearly tripled in the past two years to 332, with 115 in mainland China alone. India's 55 billionaires have an average net worth of $4.5bn.

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