NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
For the first time in history, Asia is home to the highest number of billionaires in the world.
UBS wealth management and PwC private banking reported on Oct. 30 that the number of Asian billionaires rose by nearly one quarter in 2016 to 637 — a new Asian billionaire was created every two days. If the current pace continues, the total wealth of Asia’s billionaires will overtake that of U.S. billionaires in four years.
The report counted 563 billionaires in America and 342 in Europe. It found that while the United States no longer has the most billionaires, it still has the most overall billionaire wealth because more of the world’s wealthiest individuals live in the United States.
The study was based on 1,542 billionaires across 14 largest billionaire markets, which account for around 80 percent of the billionaire wealth globally.
Of these, the key Asian markets identified were China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan. China led the growth in Asia’s billionaire count, with 318 billionaires in 2016, an increase of 27 percent from the year before.
The report also found that:
- Virtually all new entrants are self-made billionaires.
- Networks are playing an increasingly powerful role, with families working together on new ventures and younger entrepreneurs using contacts to orchestrate deals.
When asked whether an explosion in billionaire wealth had caused the super-rich to become increasingly disconnected from the rest of society, Josef Stadler, head of the UBS Wealth Management division, said it was the opposite.
“If you look at the facts, the facts are 1,500 billionaires employ directly or indirectly more than 28 million people — that is the entire workforce of the U.K.,” Stadler said.
He went on to say billionaires were becoming increasingly prominent among the tech community, and this came hand-in-hand with disruption.
“If you look at the balance of the value added by disruption versus the jobs destroyed by disruption, it is a positive balance. You could argue and say billionaires are not only smart risk takers, they also contribute heavily back to the communities,” Stadler concluded.
Billionaires in various countries are increasingly putting more of their money into philanthropy, art, and sports.
According to the report, more than 140 of the top sports clubs globally are owned by just 109 billionaires.
Overall, the average billionaire’s age is 63. In America, it is 67 years old, while the average age in Asia is 59. Chinese billionaires averaged 55 years old. Among all billionaires, the report found those involved in technology were the youngest. On average, they became billionaires at age 47.
Technology tycoons aside, real estate prices and infrastructure spending in China also helped propel the wealth of Chinese billionaires. The collective net worth of the country’s top seven developers added $44 billion to their fortunes since the beginning of the year.