February 18, 2018

Chinese boom helps Asia pip U.S. in billionaires count

27 October 2017, 12:49 | Frank Carlson

In a first, Asia tops US in billionaire count; India, China lead the way

Billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett speak with journalist Charlie Rose at an event organized by Columbia Business School on Jan. 27 2017 in New York

Additionally, the total wealth controlled by these billionaires surged by almost 18%, from $5.1 trillion to $6.0 trillion, far outpacing global stock markets that have soared into record territory, per a report by UBS Group Inc. Although the average wealth of United States billionaires is still greater, their Asian counterparts are expected to overtake them within 3-4 years.

In an annual report, UBS and PwC said that past year marked the first time it recorded more billionaires in Asia (637) than in the United States (563), crediting the rise of China's entrepreneurs. USA billionaires, the report says, still controls the most wealth at $2.8 trillion as compared to $2 trillion is Asia. Additionally, most of these billionaires are sole or part owners of companies that directly employ 27.7 million people, about equal to the working population of the U.K., CNBC adds.

Still, the USA maintains the largest concentration of billionaire wealth, with a combined US$2.8 trillion, driven by American billionaires' involvement in tech, financial services, and materials, the report notes. "Only 40% of billionaires [in the US] have their wealth tied to public markets, compared to 70% in Asia". In 2016, USA billionaire wealth reached $2.8 trillion, up 15% from the year before.

Driven mainly by growth in China, the combined wealth of Asian billionaires climbed by nearly a third from $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion.

"This period of great wealth creation is now approaching the longevity of its predecessor, which according to most historians lasted from 1870 to 1910, If history is guide, the current upcycle is likely to end in the next 10 to 20 years, possible prolonged by Asia's economic momentum and technology's new businesses".

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'This year has seen not only a return to growth for billionaire wealth, but also a significant shift in its geographic dimensions, ' says Josef Stadler, head of global ultra-high net worth at UBS. Their performance was twice better than the increase in the MSCI AC World Index.

The report found that billionaires are creating legacies for themselves through their cultural pursuits and are becoming more engaged in the arts and, increasingly, investing in sports clubs.

The study credits the resurgence in global wealth previous year to the recovery in commodity prices as well as the burgeoning technology sector.

That is, entrepreneurial billionaires beat the markets by being in industries that posted above-average gains in 2016.

Meanwhile in Europe, which had 342 billionaires, growth was largely static in 2016, with wealth growing a modest 5 per cent to just over $1.3 trillion.

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