Billionaires’ wealth falls for the first time in a decade

Jack Ma, a co-founder of the Alibaba group and one of China’s richest men, celebrates Alibaba’s 20th anniversary this year. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2019

Billionaires’ wealth falls for the first time in a decade

  • China still continues to produce a new billionaire every two and a half days

ZURICH: The world’s richest people became a little less well off last year, according to a report by UBS and PwC, as geopolitical turmoil and volatile equity markets reduced the wealth of billionaires for the first time in a decade.

Billionaires’ wealth fell by $388 billion globally to $8.539 trillion, the UBS/PwC Billionaires Report found, with a particularly sharp decline in Greater China — the second-biggest home for billionaires after the United States — and the Asia-Pacific region more broadly.

Private banks, including the world’s largest wealth manager UBS, have felt the effects of US-China trade tensions and global political uncertainties, as clients last year shied away from trading and taking on debt in favor of hoarding more cash.

“Billionaire wealth dipped in 2018 for the first time since 2008 because of geopolitics,” UBS’s head of ultra-high net worth clients, Josef Stadler, said in the report published on Friday.

The net worth of China’s richest dropped 12.8 percent in dollar terms on the back of tumbling stock markets and a weaker local currency and as growth in the world’s second-largest economy slowed to its lowest level in nearly three decades in 2018, the report found, knocking dozens off the billionaires list.

FASTFACT

Billionaires’ wealth fell by $388 billion globally to $8.539 trillion last year.

Despite the drop, China continues to produce a new billionaire every 2-2.5 days, Stadler said.

Worldwide, the number of billionaires fell everywhere except in the Americas, where tech entrepreneurs continued to buoy the ranks of the US’s wealthiest.

“This report shows the resilience of the US economy,” where there were 749 billionaires at the end of 2018, said John Matthews, head of private wealth management and ultra-high net worth business for UBS in the US.

While a stock market recovery from a steep drop in late 2018 has helped wealth managers to increase their assets, the world’s richest families remain concerned about global affairs from trade tensions and Brexit to populism and climate change and are continuing to keep more of their money in cash.

“It is likely that billionaire wealth will go up again this year,” said Simon Smiles, UBS’s chief investment officer for ultra-wealthy clients, adding it would likely be a more muted increase than the wider financial market rally might suggest.


Riyadh to host next World Economic Forum regional summit

Updated 25 min 59 sec ago

Riyadh to host next World Economic Forum regional summit

  • The theme of the meeting will be the place of the region in the fourth industrial revolution
  • Middle East WEF’s in the past have been staged in Egypt, Jordan and some have been held in the UAE

DAVOS: Saudi Arabia will host the next Middle East summit of the World Economic Forum, the first time the Kingdom has staged the prestigious meeting of world leaders, it was announced in Davos on Thursday.

Borge Brende, the WEF president, told delegates: “The next Middle East summit will be held in Saudi Arabia on the 5 and 6 of April this year.”

The theme of the meeting will be the place of the region in the fourth industrial revolution, according to a posting on the official WEF website.

Middle East WEF’s in the past have been staged in Egypt, Jordan and some have been held in the UAE.

The announcement was made at a special meeting at Davos to consider the strategic priorities for Saudi Arabia as it prepares to stage the G20 meeting of world leaders in the Kingdom in November, the first time the power-summit has been held in the Middle East.