MUMBAI (BLOOMBERG) - For years, the world's five richest people comprised a little-changed group dominated by Americans, a European or two and, occasionally, a Mexican.
That changed on Thursday (July 23), when India's Mukesh Ambani overtook Mr Steve Ballmer to become the fifth-wealthiest person on the planet, with a net worth of US$77.4 billion (S$107.2 billion).
The jump in ranking is just the latest milestone for Mr Ambani, 63, whose fortune has surged by US$18.8 billion since the beginning of the year.
The Reliance Industries chairman has jumped nine places on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index since January as shares of his conglomerate rose 135 per cent from a low in March, buoyed by recent investments from firms including Facebook Inc, Silver Lake and BP.
Mr Ambani's dealmaking has helped make India a bright spot for M&A during an otherwise barren year, with Indian news channel ET Now reporting that Amazon.com Inc is in early talks for a stake in Reliance's retail division.
Mr Ambani cracked the group of the 10 richest people just last month. Two weeks ago, he surpassed Mr Warren Buffett, now ranked No. 7. He overtook Tesla's Elon Musk and Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page days later.
The world's second-wealthiest Asian is Tencent Holdings co-founder Pony Ma, who currently ranks 18th.
Billionaires from the region have outperformed their peers from elsewhere this year, with the exception of Australia and New Zealand, according to the Bloomberg index, a ranking of the world's 500 richest people.
The wealthiest Asian tycoons have increased their collective fortune by 18 per cent, compared with gains of 7 per cent for their counterparts in the United States and Canada.
While Mr Ambani's rise has been remarkable, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos' fortune surged the most this year, adding US$62.7 billion.