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.


Russia vows cooperation with OPEC to keep oil market balanced

Updated 21 November 2019

Russia vows cooperation with OPEC to keep oil market balanced

  • Moscow not aiming to be world’s No.1 crude producer, Putin tells annual investment forum

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have “a common goal” of keeping the oil market balanced and predictable, and Moscow will continue cooperation under the global supply curbs deal.

OPEC meets on Dec. 5 in Vienna, followed by talks with a group of other exporters, including Russia, known as OPEC+.

“Our (common with OPEC) goal is for the market to be balanced, acceptable for producers and consumers and the most important — and I want to underline this — predictable,” Putin told a forum on Wednesday.

In October, Russia cut its oil output to 11.23 million barrels per day (bpd) from 11.25 million bpd in September but it was still higher than a 11.17-11.18 million bpd cap set for Moscow under the existing global deal. Putin told the forum that Russia’s oil production was growing slightly despite the supply curbs deal but Moscow was not aiming to be the world’s No. 1 crude producer. Currently, the US is the world’s top oil producer.

“Russia has a serious impact on the global energy market but the most impact we achieve (is) when working along with other key producers,” he said. “There was a moment not that long ago when Russia was the world’s top oil producer — this is not our goal.”

Russia plans to produce between 556 million and 560 million tons of oil this year (11.17-11.25 million bpd), Energy Minister Alexander Novak said separately on Wednesday, depending on the volume of gas condensate produced during cold months.

Russia will aim to stick to its commitments under the deal in November, Novak told reporters.

Russia includes gas condensate — a side product also known as a “light oil” produced when companies extract natural gas — into its overall oil production statistics, which some other oil producing countries do not do.

As Russia is gradually increasing liquefied natural gas production (LNG), the share of gas condensate it is producing is also growing. Gas condensate now accounts for around 6 percent of Russian oil production.

Novak told reporters that in winter, Russia traditionally produces more gas condensate as it is launching new gas fields in the freezing temperatures.

“We believe that gas condensate should not be taken into account (of overall oil production statistics), as this is an absolutely different area related to gas production and gas supplies,” he said.

Three sources told Reuters on Tuesday that Russia is unlikely to agree to deepen cuts in oil output at a meeting with fellow exporters next month, but could commit to extend existing curbs to support Saudi Arabia.

On Wednesday, Novak declined to say that Russia’s position would be at upcoming OPEC+ meeting. Reuters uses a conversion rate of 7.33 barrels per ton of oil.