China leads the way as world’s billionaires get even richer

Chinese billionaires expanded their wealth by 39 percent to $1.12 trillion. Above, the central business district in Beijing. (AFP)
Updated 26 October 2018
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China leads the way as world’s billionaires get even richer

  • Chinese billionaires expanded their wealth by 39 percent to $1.12 trillion
  • Self-made billionaires have driven 80 percent of the 40 main breakthrough innovations over the last 40 years

ZURICH: China produced around two new billionaires a week last year as the fortunes of the world’s ultra-rich soared by a record amount, a report said Friday.
Billionaires’ wealth enjoyed its “greatest-ever” increase in 2017, rising 19 percent to $8.9 trillion shared among 2,158 individuals, said the report by Swiss banking giant UBS and auditors PwC.
But Chinese billionaires expanded their wealth at nearly double that pace, growing by 39 percent to $1.12 trillion.
“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.”
The report said China minted two new billionaires a week in 2017, among more than three a week created in Asia.
In the Americas region, the wealth of billionaires increased at a slower rate of 12 percent, to $3.6 trillion, with the United States creating 53 new billionaires in 2017 compared to 87 five years ago.
Currency appreciation saw European billionaires’ wealth grow 19 percent although the number of billionaires rose by just 4.0 percent to 414.
Wealth transition from just five families accounted for 30 percent of the continent’s wealth expansion, the study said.
It warned of lower economic growth in the United States and China if the trade war between the two countries escalates.
“US and Asia ex-Japan equities could fall by 20 percent from their mid-summer 2018 levels.”
For China’s young billionaires “the country’s fundamentals of a huge population and rising technology will continue to offer fertile conditions for entrepreneurs to grow their businesses,” the study said.
It there were only 16 Chinese billionaires as recently as 2006.
“Today, only 30 years after the country’s government first allowed private enterprise, they number 373 – nearly one in five of the global total.”
It said 97 percent of them are self-made, many of them in sectors such as technology and retail.
Billionaires from Asia, especially in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, are now challenging the traditional dominance of Americans as technology entrepreneurs.
“In 2017, they equaled America’s level of venture capital funding for start-ups, registered four times as many Artificial-Intelligence-related patents and three times as many blockchain and crypto-related patents as their US counterparts.”
Ravi Raju, head of Asia Pacific Ultra High Net Worth at UBS Global Wealth Management, said Asia’s billionaires “are young and relentless. They are constantly transforming their companies, developing new business models and shifting rapidly into new sectors.”
The report said that globally, self-made billionaires have driven 80 percent of the 40 main breakthrough innovations over the last 40 years.


No politics please for Baghdad bikers aiming to unite Iraq

Updated 20 January 2019
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No politics please for Baghdad bikers aiming to unite Iraq

  • That is why the first rule of his bikers club is: you do not talk about politics
  • The Iraq Bikers — who now number 380 — are men of all ages, social classes and various faiths

BAGHDAD: Roaring along Baghdad’s highways, the “Iraq Bikers” are doing more than showing off their love of outsized motorcycles and black leather: they want their shared enthusiasm to help heal Iraq’s deep sectarian rifts.
Weaving in and out of traffic, only the lucky few ride Harley Davidsons — a rare and expensive brand in Iraq — while others make do with bikes pimped-up to look something like the “Easy Rider” dream machines.
“Our goal is to build a brotherhood,” said Bilal Al-Bayati, 42, a government employee who founded the club in 2012 with the aim of improving the image of biker gangs and to promote unity after years of sectarian conflict.
That is why the first rule of his bikers club is: you do not talk about politics.
“It is absolutely prohibited to talk politics among members,” Bayati told Reuters as he sat with fellow bikers in a shisha cafe, a regular hangout for members.
“Whenever politics is mentioned, the members are warned once or twice and then expelled. We no longer have the strength to endure these tragedies or to repeat them,” he said, referring to sectarian violence.
With his black bandana and goatee, the leader of the Baghdad pack, known as “Captain,” looks the epitome of the American biker-outlaw.
But while their style is unmistakably US-inspired — at least one of Bayati’s cohorts wears a helmet emblazoned with the stars and stripes — these bikers fly the Iraqi flag from the panniers of their machines.
The Iraq Bikers — who now number 380 — are men of all ages, social classes and various faiths. One of their most recent events was taking party in Army Day celebrations.
Some are in the military, the police and even the Popular Mobilization Forces, a grouping of mostly Shiite militias which have taken part in the fight to oust Islamic State from Iraq in the last three years.
“It is a miniature Iraq,” said member Ahmed Haidar, 36, who works with an international relief agency.
But riding a chopper through Baghdad is quite different from Route 101. The bikers have to slow down at the many military checkpoints set up around the city to deter suicide and car bomb attacks.
And very few can afford a top bike.
“We don’t have a Harley Davidson franchise here,” said Kadhim Naji, a mechanic who specializes in turning ordinary motorbikes into something special.
“So what we do is we alter the motorbike, so it looks similar ... and it is cheaper.”