The region with the most billionaires


The Riding the Storm – Billionaires Insights Report 2020, by Switzerland bank UBS and multinational professional services network PwC, shows that Asia-Pacific has the highest number of ultra-rich – ridiculously high net worth – individuals.

Almost 40% of the richest people in the world live in the Asia-Pacific, as of July 2020, where 831 billionaires’ wealth now totals US$3.23 trillion. Those would include the Reliance Group‘s Ambani family from India, Samsung’s Lee (Byung-Chull) family in South Korea, Sung Hung Kai & Co’s Kwok family in Hong Kong and the Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group’s Chearavanont family from Thailand. Mukesh Ambani is the richest person in Asia with a net worth of US$88.8 billion.

The insights report showed that the Asia-Pacific region exceeded the Americas (762 or 35%) and the Europeans, Middle Eastern and African billionaires (596 or 27%).

There are now 2,189 billionaires globally with a combined wealth of US$10.2 trillion as the rally by stock markets recovering from the fall caused by the coronavirus pandemic catapulted the net worth of the world’s uber wealthy to a new high.

The findings, based on interviews and data from 2,000 billionaires across 43 markets, saw Asia-Pacific retain its global position as “the engine of wealth growth”, UBS Global Wealth Management’s Anurag Mahesh said at the report’s launch on Wednesday.

Mainland China emerged as the region’s top market for wealth creation, with 415 billionaires, followed by India (114), Hong King (65) Taiwan (40) and Australia (39). The US is home to 636 billionaires, the study found.

A lot of the billionaire wealth growth seen this year was closely linked to the stock market recovery staged since April’s dramatic sell-off as the assets of the ultra wealthy are typically tied up in the public companies they run or invest in.

The report also stated that from 2019 to the peak of the downturn in April 2020, Asian billionaire wealth emerged relatively unscathed, dropping 2.1% compared to 10.1% in Europe, Middle East and Africa and 7.4% in the Americas.

Mahesh, Asia-Pacific co-head of UBS’s Global Family Office, said they could be partly related to the region’s dominance in the key industries of technology and health care, which have surged in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Asia-Pacific is home to the world’s highest share of tech and healthcare billionaires, accounting for 181 (8%) of the total billionaire population, compared to 153 (7%) in the Americas and 88 (4%) in Europe, Middle East and Africa. A growing emphasis on disruption and innovation in both sectors have helped them forge ahead against their more traditional peers, the report found.

“It is interesting but not surprising that wealth in the tech and healthcare sectors surged ahead at a faster rate than other sectors. In the last decade, the wealth of billionaires in the tech sector grew 5.7 times while the wealth of billionaires in the financial services sector grew 2.3 times,” said Anuj Kagalwala, partner and asset and wealth management leader at PwC Singapore, a co-author of the study.

The report also found 209 billionaires contributed a total of US$7.2 billion to the coronavirus pandemic from March to June 2020.

Of them, 175 (76%) were financial donors, meaning they donated money to relief efforts, while 24 (19%) were makers who repurposed their manufacturing lines to produce equipment, for example. Ten of them (5%) were impact entrepreneurs, who contributed to long-term strategies such as finding a vaccine.

Mahesh said the research suggests it is the “greatest upsurge” in giving among billionaires within that frame of time.

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