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What Motivates World's Richest Man, Carlos Slim? 'Not Money'

Larry King, left, speaks with billionaire Carlos Slim at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Larry King, left, speaks with billionaire Carlos Slim at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference.

Record low interest rates, cold hard cash on balance sheets and Mexico are among the themes I'm hearing at the Global Conference 2013, sponsored by the Milken Institute in Los Angeles.

We know that record rates have already fueled a steady flow of new money into stocks, sending the major averages toward record highs. But some investment managers are scratching their heads wondering why the level of borrowing—coupled with trillions of dollars in cash on balance sheets—are not fueling more of a boom in the mergers and acquisitions business. Peter Weinberg, co-founder and partner at Perella Weinberg Partners, said to expect that boom to occur later this year.

"We had this huge week in February that many of us thought was the beginning of a storm," he said. "Confidence levels still are not a level that's going to drive consistent M&A."

(Read More: The Fed Is Destroying Jobs: Ken Griffin)

That nearly $4 trillion of cash on balance sheets has, however, triggered a resurgence in activist investors. They are pushing managers to put money to work, whether through buybacks, dividend increases or deals.

Clifton Robbins, CEO of Blue Harbour Group, is one of those activists. He says, rather than bully managers to move the money, he works with CEOs of companies Blue Harbour invests in to enhance shareholder value.

"This can be done in a collaborative and friendly manner," he told me. "In today's rate environment, there really isn't a great reason for companies to be sitting on an inordinate amount of cash."

Even tech companies like Apple have been forced to buy back more stock and increase dividends because investors are demanding it.

Even as the tech heavy Nasdaq sits at a 12-year high, legendary technology investor and Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, still sees real value in technology.

He told me: "I don't think there's actually much of a rally in tech. Apple is way down. Google's multiple is pretty low. Large cap stock multiples are trading at generational lows, there's not a lot of IPOs. I know people are getting more excited, but I've got to say it's actually hard to see it in our world, other than new ideas getting funding—which they should."

(Read More: Real Estate Moguls Seek Riches Overseas)

As the hunt for yield ramps up in a low-interest-rate world, investors are increasingly finding opportunities outside the U.S. Growth in emerging markets like Mexico outperform. Mexican billionaire and world's richest person Carlos Slim spoke at a Milken global conference panel and said Mexico is doing well. With a budget surplus, money continues to flow into Mexico.

The Mexican business billionaire, investor and philanthropist, who was born of a Mexican mother and Lebanese father, said his goal was "not to make money. [That is] a kind of gambling." Slim said that everyone has some kind of vocation, and his just happened to be numbers. "When you have a vocation for numbers you have many activities, and you will develop yourself professionally, and that's why I studied engineering. I like investments, creation of investments and economic activities that come with investments."

His sense of accomplishment, Slim said, is not "economic."

The global conference is a mix of asset allocators, real estate heavyweights and global influencers. Milken Institute founder Michael Milken loves innovations in the health care space, and has made a real difference in funding research for the treatment and eventual cure of prostate cancer.

He is able to attract to this annual gathering leading names in health care and throughout government, politics and business. Debt and deficits are also big topics, and one of the marquee events for the first full day is a one-on-one conversation with House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

—By CNBC's Maria Bartiromo. Follow her on Twitter: @MariaBartiromo

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