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LONDON (AP) -- Britain will give an honorary knighthood to Microsoft Corp. co-founder and chairman Bill Gates in recognition of his contribution to enterprise in Britain, the government said Monday.
Gates, 48, who is the richest man in the world, will receive the honor at an unspecified later date that is "mutually convenient," the Foreign Office said.
Because he is not a British citizen, Gates cannot use "Sir" in front of his name, but he can put the letters KBE after his name. The initials stand for Knight Commander of the British Empire.
"The honorary KBE is in recognition of his outstanding contribution to enterprise, employment, education and the voluntary sector in the United Kingdom," the Foreign Office said. "He has also made significant contributions to poverty reduction in parts of the Commonwealth and elsewhere in the developing world."
No one was immediately available for comment at Microsoft U.K.
Honorary awards to foreign nationals are conferred by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
Straw said he was "delighted" that Gates, an American, had been honored.
"He is one of the most important global business leaders of this age," Straw said. "Microsoft technology has transformed business practices and his company has had a profound impact on the British economy, employing 2,000 people and contributing to the development of the IT sector."
In 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a donation of $210 million to Cambridge University to create a scholarship program for graduate students from outside Britain.