08 March 2007

Carlos Slim pads his wallet

Telmex czar Carlos Slim padded his wallet by $19 billion over the past year, according to Forbes annual list of billionaires. Slim, whose name miserably describes his wallet's thickness, now trails Warren Buffett by $3 billion and perennial first-place finisher Bill Gates. Slim's net worth now totals $49 billion - more than double its value of just two years ago.

The world's billionaires as group grew even wealthier last year due to stellar equity markets. That certainly explains Slim's growing net worth as Telmex and America Movil (which markets cellular service under the TelCel brand in Mexico) performed strongly.

Anyone in doubt of Slim's ability to maximize profits needs look no further than their monthly Telmex bill. Telecoms in other country barely make money on long distance. Not Telmex, which charges in upwards $1/minute for international calls. Users attempting to escape Telmex's grip by using VOIP services report experiencing lousy call quality and allege - some say they can prove - that the phone giant degrades their ADSL service when trying to phone abroad. (Telmex denies the allegation.) For those ditching Telmex for a cellular phone, Slim's America Movil has around 70 percent of the market and charges some of the highest rates in the region.

In the Forbes survey, Mexico recorded ten billionaires - not surprising since monopolies and duopolies are still rife. Others making the list included Televisa boss Emilio Azcarraga Jean and beer baroness Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala of Grupo Modelo fame.

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