Billionaire numbers boom in Asia over past year, shows PwC report

21 November 2018 4 min. read
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Asia was home to three new billionaires per week last year according to analysis from PwC and UBS, with wealth concentrating at rates greater than ever before.

Now in its fifth edition, the Big Four professional services firm PwC and Swiss banking giant UBS have released their annual global Billionaire’s report for 2018, charting the explosive growth in the ultra-wealthy of Asia. All up, the number of billionaires in Asia rose by more than 100 in 2017 to a net total of 814, with China now boasting 475 billionaires alone – rising from just 16 individuals a little over one decade ago.

Altogether, there are now 2,158 billionaires the world over, up from 1,979 individuals in 2016, with their collective wealth pegged at a staggering $8.9 trillion – the $1.4 trillion 19 percent rise in absolute growth over the year being the largest ever annual hike in concentrated wealth. One decade ago the world’s billionaires held closer to $2 trillion of its wealth, before, interestingly, a dramatic rise since the onset of the global financial crisis.Wealth development of billionaires from 1995 to 2017The big story however is the continued rise of wealth in China and the Asia Pacific, with the region, having eclipsed the US tally in 2014 (rising that year from 394 to 550 individuals against 533 in the US), now home to 814 billionaires compared to 545 in the US – highlighting the growing shift in the balance of economic power from west to east. Europe combined now has less billionaire than Asia, with Asian cities projected to generate almost half of the world’s economic activity by just 2035.

In addition to its number of billionaires, which welcomed 177 new members in total before drop-outs to contribute nearly 60 percent of the global number of new entries, the Asian contingent also grew its holdings at faster rates than elsewhere. Driven by China, the net worth of APAC billionaires grew by practically one third in just one year to $2.7 trillion, with the report noting that at such growth rates the overall wealth among local billionaires will surpass that of the US’s in just three years.Wealth development of billionaires across different regionsLast year, almost 200 self-made individuals broke the billion-dollar bracket, 127 originating in Asia, and 89 of those coming from China, with an estimated third overall deriving their wealth through innovation and business model disruption  – suggesting, according to the report’s authors, that Shenzhen is becoming the new Silicon Valley. Nearly a fifth of the new Chinese billionaires founded their businesses less than one decade ago, with 62 local companies gaining unicorn status in just the past two years.

Ravi Raju, Head of Asia Pacific Ultra High Net Worth at UBS Global Wealth Management, said of the analysis; “Asia's billionaires are young and relentless. They are constantly transforming their companies, developing new business models and shifting rapidly into new sectors. This cohort is overwhelmingly self-made and determined to capitalise on one of history’s greatest moments for new enterprise.”Self-made billionaires per region and industry“We are experiencing a new wave of entrepreneurship worldwide, with billionaires at the vanguard of innovation,” adds Josef Stadler, Head of Ultra High Net Worth at UBS Global Wealth Management. “They are creating jobs and prosperity, but their impact goes beyond economics. A new generation is emerging, and they see an opportunity to tackle some of the greatest environmental and societal challenges facing humankind.”

Stadler continues: “Over the last decade, Chinese billionaires have created some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, raised living standards. 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.”

As a breakdown per country (excluding China, Oceania and India), the billionaire’s club was spread between seven additional Southeast and East Asian nations, with the more advanced economies of South Korea and Japan contributing a respective 44 and 35 individuals to the total, followed in turn by Thailand (30 – up from 21 in 2016 with total collective holdings rising from ~$66 billion to ~93 billion), Singapore (22), Indonesia (20), Malaysia (14) and the Philippines with twelve.