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Will Warren Buffett Still Be the World's Second Richest Person 24 Hours from Now?

Tomorrow (Wednesday, March 5) at 6pm ET, Forbes officially releases its annual list of the world's billionaires .. ranked primarily, of course, by net worth.

Or at least net worth as estimated by the editors of Forbes, since doing those kinds of calculations can be more of an art than a science, given the complexities of the very wealthy. They do a very credible job, though, and the Forbes ranking is about as close as you get to an "official" list.

Warren Buffett was number two on the 2007 Forbes list of billionaires. When the magazine crunched its numbers last March, it came up with a net worth of $52 billion for Buffett. That was an increase of $10 billion from the year before, despite some large charitable gifts.

Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim.
AP
Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim.

The main challenger for Buffett's number two slot is Carlos Slim, who came in at number three last year. The Mexican businessman's self-made fortune could even challenge Microsoft's Bill Gates for his number one position.

Back in July, Mexican financial journalist Eduardo Garcia generated headlineswith his declaration that Slim had overtaken Gates.

Last summer, Fortune magazine described Slim as the "richest man in the world" based on its own calculations, thanks to big increases in the value of Slim's holdings in companies like Telefonos de Mexico and America Movil .

In a page one profile last August, the Wall Street Journal wrote about The Secrets of the World's Richest Man. The Journal noted that Slim might have become the first "person from the developing world [to] hold the top spot since Forbes started tracking the wealthy outside the U.S. in the 1990s." It also quoted Slim as modestly saying, "It's not a competition."

And in October, as it published its list of the 400 richest Americans, Forbes itself said Slim and Gates were in a "virtual tie."

Remember, Berkshire stock had a pretty good year in 2007. And in thechart below, you can see that Berkshire (in blue) outperformed both Microsoft (orange) and Telefonos de Mexico (green) over the past twelve months. This is back-of-the-envelope stuff, to be sure, but we could see Buffett give Gates and Slim a good "run for their money."



And even if he does lose his "I'm Number Two!" claim, I'm guessing Forbes will continue to describe Buffett as "beloved." We saw evidence of that in the thousands of emails we received for yesterday's "Ask Warren" extravaganza on Squawk Box.

Questions? Comments? Email me at buffettwatch@cnbc.com