China mints two new billionaires a week as the fortunes of the ultra-rich soar

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.

Chinese entrepreneurs led the way as billionaires there added just over £1trn to their wealth in 2017, the greatest annual increase ever.

There are 475 billionaires in Greater China and 373 within China. That compares to 631 in the US.

UBS and PwC’s report ‘New visionaries and the Chinese century’ highlights the speed with which new billionaires are emerging in China.

In 2006, there were just 16 billionaires in China. Last year, 106 new billionaires were created there — equivalent to over two new billionaires being minted each week.

“Over the last decade, Chinese billionaires have created some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, raised living standards,” said Josef Stadler, head of Ultra High Net Worth at UBS Global Wealth Management.

“But this is just the beginning. 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.”

Asia as whole produced more than three billionaires a week.

The surge in the number of billionaires in the world’s most populous country has made it an Eldorado for private banks.

“Asia’s billionaires are young and relentless. They are constantly transforming their companies, developing new business models and shifting rapidly into new sectors,” said Ravi Raju, head of Asia Pacific ultra-high net worth at UBS wealth management.

“This cohort is overwhelmingly self-made and determined to capitalize on one of history’s greatest moments for new enterprise.”

In the Americas region, the wealth of billionaires increased at a slower rate of 12%, to $3.6trn, with the United States creating 53 new billionaires in 2017 compared to 87 five years ago.

Currency appreciation saw European billionaires’ wealth grow by 19% although the number of billionaires rose by just 4% to 414.

Billionaires made more money in 2017 than in any year in recorded history. “The past 30 years have seen far greater wealth creation than the Gilded Age” the report said.

More than 40 of the 179 new billionaires created last year inherited their wealth, and given the number of billionaires over 70 the report’s authors expect a further $3.4trn to be handed down over the next 20 years.

Pedro Gonçalves
Pedro Gonçalves is Financial Correspondent at International Investment.

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