China produced two new billionaires a week last year as the fortunes of the world's ultra-rich soared by a record amount, Swiss banking giant UBS and auditors PwC said Friday.
Three-quarters of the newly minted billionaires are from the region’s two biggest economies – China and India. China had by far the highest number, adding a net 67 to total 318. India’s billionaire population climbed 16 to 100 in 2017.
Asia’s economic expansion saw, on average, a new billionaire every other day, with the population expanding by record 162, the report revealed.
Taken together, the wealth of Asian billionaires grew by almost a third (+31%) in 2016, up from $1.5 trillion to $2.0 trillion.
Billionaires’ wealth enjoyed its greatest-ever increase in 2017, rising 19 per cent to $8.9 trillion shared among 2,158 individuals, said UBS and PwC the report.
But Chinese billionaires expanded their wealth at nearly double that pace, growing by 39 per cent to $1.12 trillion.
Asian billionaires averaged 59 years old. In China, where wealth is growing fastest, the average age was 55. By contrast, the average age of billionaires in Europe and the US was 66 and 67 respectively.
Over the coming 20 years, the report estimate that those who are 70 years old or more will transfer $2.4 trillion, up by 16 per cent on the previous year.
More than one third (39 per cent) of billionaire wealth belongs to those aged 70 or older. As the oldest of them are in the US and Europe, this is where the greatest wealth transfer will be. Asia’s billionaires are younger, with 80 per cent of them under 70.
"Over the last decade, Chinese billionaires have created some of the world’s largest and most successful companies and 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."
UBS' analysis shows that if current growth trends continue the total wealth of Asia’s billionaires will overtake the US in four years.
During the year, the number of Asian billionaires rose by 117 (23 per cent) to 637. By contrast, there were just 25 more (+5 per cent) US billionaires at 563. Europe’s billionaire population was flat. After 3 net new entrants, the number was 342.
Globally, total wealth grew by 17 per cent, or $892 billion from $5.1 trillion to $6.0 trillion.