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.


OPEC and its allies meet to discuss oil output cuts

Updated 06 June 2020

OPEC and its allies meet to discuss oil output cuts

  • The meeting, originally scheduled for next week, was brought forward to Saturday

VIENNA: OPEC and its allies were holding talks via video conference Saturday to assess their current deal to slash production as oil prices tentatively recover on easing coronavirus lockdowns.
The 13-member group and other oil producing nations such as Russia and Mexico are discussing an agreement reached in April to boost prices, which have plummeted over falling demand as countries around the world have imposed strict lockdowns to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
The meeting, originally scheduled for next week, was brought forward to Saturday at the suggestion of Algerian Oil Minister Mohamed Arkab, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Under the terms of the April agreement, OPEC and the so-called OPEC+ pledged to cut output by 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) from May 1 until the end of June.
The reductions would then be gradually relaxed from July, with 7.7 million bpd taken off the market from July to December.
But at Saturday’s talks, crude producers were expected to discuss extending the 9.7 million bpd beyond June, even if agreement might prove difficult to reach.
The April deal was signed after days of wrangling between major players, whose revenues have been ravaged by the collapsing oil market this year.
“It seems very likely the May-June cuts will be extended by another month,” said Bjornar Tonhaugen, analyst at Rystad Energy.
Some market observers are expecting the cuts to be extended still further, possibly until the end of the summer or even until the end of the year.
Although more countries around the world are gradually moving out of lockdown, crude consumption has not returned to pre-confinement levels, which had already been comparatively low.
As in previous negotiations, discussions could prove particularly tense between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the deal’s two heavyweights who became involved in a short but bitter price war when previous talks broke down in March.
Mexico, which held up the April deal before it was eventually finalized, has also already ruled out any further drop in oil production with its president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, saying on Friday his country “could not adjust our production further.”
Another major bone of contention could be the willingness of each country to abide by the agreed production quotas, suggested RBC analyst Al Stanton.
According to data intelligence company Kpler, OPEC+ reduced output by around 8.6 million bpd in May, a smaller cut than planned, with Iraq and Nigeria seen as the main culprits.
Nigeria’s Ministry of Petroleum Resources said in a tweet Saturday that it backed discussions to allow countries which failed to conform fully to the agreed cuts in May and June to make up for it in July, August and September
Despite the difficulties, the output cuts have helped support oil prices, which rose to around $40 per barrel at the start of June for both the US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), and Europe’s Brent North Sea contracts.
Around April 20, both had slumped to historic lows, with Brent falling as low as $15 and WTI even entering negative territory.