Forbes Updates Billionaire List for ’13; Finance Pros Worried About Energy, Cyberthreats, Demographics; Fannie Mae Delinquency Rate Down

Forbes magazine published its 27th annual list of billionaires, with most of the usual suspects populating the top of the list. What seems to worry accounting and finance professionals most are energy prices. And serious delinquency rates on single-family mortgages that Fannie Mae owns or insures declined in January to 3.18 percent from 3.29 percent in December.

Forbes magazine published its 27th annual list of billionaires on Monday, with most of the usual suspects populating the tip-top of the list, such as Mexican communication mogul Carlos Slim Helu, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and the Koch brothers all making appearances, though they fluctuate in position from year to year. Last year was a good one for most billionaires, many of whom profited handsomely from rising equities markets and real estate holdings that are gained in value.

Among real estate moguls, Lee Shau Kee of Hong Kong topped the list at no. 24, with net assets at an estimated $20.3 billion (all figures are in U.S. dollars), largely through holdings in Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land, both of which benefitted from boom times in Hong Kong property markets. Among American real estate moguls, Donald Bren, chairman of the Irvine Co., had the most in net assets: $13 billion. He too enjoyed a run-up in his real estate holdings, which are concentrated on the West Coast.  Donald Trump (arguably CRE’s best-known billionaire), came in at 423 on the list, with $3.2 billion in assets.

Forbes also noted that its list of 1,426 billionaires worldwide have a combined net worth of $5.43 trillion, give or take a few billion. For the sake of comparison, that’s a bit less than the 2012 GDP of Japan, but considerably more than the GDP of Germany. “If they were feeling charitable, they could donate their money to the U.S. national debt, but that would only pay it down by a third,” the magazine noted. Divided up equally among everyone in the world, and each person would get $768.37.

Finance Pros Worried About Energy, Cyberthreats, Demographics

The Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals detailed what worries U.S. accounting and finance professionals in a survey released on Monday. Top among short-term threats to business health? Energy prices, according to the survey, which received input from more than 550 accounting and business professionals from different sectors of the economy, and defined “short term” as the next three years or sooner. 

“U.S. respondents cited the rise in energy and fuel prices as the most pressing issue facing businesses in the short term,” the report noted. “The second and third critical drivers that are expected to have significant impact relate to legal issues and science and technology.” In particular, cyber security threats have the nation’s CFOs and other finance specialists up at night — new forms of cyberterrorism, cybercrime, and cyberfraud — as does the volume and complexity of regulation.

In the medium term (four to nine years), U.S. finance specialists believe the changing age balance of the workforce, as well as the increasing needs of an aging society, will be the top driver of change. In the long term (more than 10 years), changes in the global reserve currency from the U.S. dollar to a different currency will be the main agency of economic change, said the respondents.

Fannie Mae Delinquency Rate Down

Fannie Mae reported on Monday that the serious delinquency rate on single-family mortgages that it owns or insures declined in January to 3.18 percent from 3.29 percent in December. The serious delinquency rate, which the GSE defines as loans that are “three monthly payments or more past due or in foreclosure,” is down from 3.9 percent in January 2012. The current rate is the lowest since March 2009.

 

Wall Street was down much of the day on Monday, but found its mojo by the end of the day, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 38.16 points, or 0.27 percent. The S&P 500 gained 0.46 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.39 percent.