China leads the way as world's billionaires get even richer

A burgeoning tech industry and startup culture that's poised to challenge Silicon Valley has been the engine for much of China's wealth creation, according to the report, which noted that China produced nearly three times as many self-made billionaires as the USA a year ago.

Billionaires around the world saw their wealth increase in 2017 to a record $8.9trn held by 2,158 individuals, Swiss banking giant UBS and auditors PwC said. And although the net worth of Asian billionaires led by China was US$2.7 trillion, behind North America's US$3.09 trillion, they are expected to overtake the Americans in three years, according to the report.

If the ongoing trade tensions were to develop into an "all-out" trade war, "an abrupt change in economic conditions would have knock-on effects on billionaires' interests and investments", said Philip Wyatt, Asia-Pacific economist at UBS Global Wealth Management.

Josef Stadler, head of ultra high-net-worth at UBS Global Wealth Management, called the growth "astonishing" at a launch event in London on Friday.

In 2017, two out of three new super wealthy individuals a week in Asia were Chinese, keeping the region's 814-strong cohort above their 715 USA counterparts for a second year in a row. "China´s vast population, technology innovation and productivity growth combined with government support, are providing unprecedented opportunities for individuals not only to build businesses but also to change people´s lives for the better".

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However, female billionaires remain a small minority, making up just 11 percent of the total, and for some the report highlighted growing inequality.

Asia as whole produced more than three billionaires a week. And a total 97 per cent of all China's billionaires were self-made. "They are constantly transforming their companies, developing new business models and shifting rapidly into new sectors". We have also found that Next Gen billionaires are extremely entrepreneurial. "Women tend to foster family values and want to invest more into the sustainability area, whereas males are more value creators and leave it then to their females or to their officers and family officers or foundation officers to basically give back to society". The U.S. still has the world's largest number of billionaires at 585, but only created 53 new ultra rich previous year, while 31 fell out of the league.

USA and Asia ex-Japan equities could fall by 20% from their mid-summer 2018 levels.

To put the growth in context, China had only 16 billionaires in 2006. The U.S. added 53 billionaires a year ago, a 4% increase, bringing the total to 585.

In Europe, wealth grew 19 percent to United States dollars 1.9 trillion. Assets increased 19 percent, while the number of billionaires only rose 4 percent to 414.

  • Darren Santiago