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UBS/PwC Billionaires Report 2017: Asia has the highest number of billionaires in the world; return to growth for billionaires globally

Singapore Media Releases APAC


Report shines a spotlight on new trends among billionaires, including the use of networks and investments in art and sports.

Key findings:

  • Asia is creating one new billionaire every other day
  • Asian billionaires outnumber their US counterparts for the first time, but US still retains the greatest concentration of wealth
  • Globally, the total wealth of billionaires rose by 17 percent in 2016 to USD 6.0 trillion, double the rate of the MSCI AC World Index.
  • 1,542 billionaires are responsible for businesses that employ a workforce equal to that of the working population in UK
  • Networks are playing an increasingly powerful role, with families working together on new ventures and younger entrepreneurs using contacts to orchestrate deals; billionaires are also playing an increasingly important role in art and sports

Singapore, 26 October 2017 – Billionaire wealth returned to growth in 2016 after falling the year before. For the first time, Asian billionaires outnumbered their US counterparts, but the US still retains the greatest concentration of wealth. If the current trend continues, the total wealth of Asian billionaires will overtake that of their counterparts in the US in four years.

The study focuses on 1,542 billionaires across 14 largest billionaire markets which account for around 80% of the billionaire wealth globally. In Asia, there are 637 billionaires with 162 new entrants. China leads the pack with 101 new billionaires. Billionaire wealth in other key Asian markets (Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan) grew by almost 30%.

Josef Stadler, Head Global Ultra High Net Worth, UBS, comments on the new report: “This year we have seen not only a return to growth for billionaire wealth, but also a significant shift in its geographic dimensions. Dramatic growth in Asian wealth shows it could overtake the US in just four years.”

“Beyond this headline figure, billionaires are also having a wider impact on the global economy through the people they employ and the growth they foster. The societal effect of great wealth is, however, not exclusively economic. Through their own passion for arts and sports, they are playing an increasingly important role in enriching the cultural life of communities.”

“The findings of this report help us to stay ahead of the issues that matter to our clients, including over half of the world’s billionaires, and enable us to offer them more tailored advice based on insights from the market and from their peers.”

Ravi Raju, Head Global Ultra High Net Worth Asia Pacific, UBS, commented, "As Asia leads the way in wealth creation, there is a new billionaire created every other day. For the first time, Asia has the highest number of billionaires in the world globally.

Today, three out of five billionaires in Asia have a relationship with UBS. Many of the Asian billionaires are first generation entrepreneurs. This has led to a rise of many Asian billionaire-linked companies that are publicly listed. UBS have been collaborating with many of Asia's billionaire families on their business, family legacy and investment needs over the generations."

Ng Siew Quan, Asia Pacific Entrepreneurial and Private Business Leader, PwC commented, “What fuels part of the Asian century are wealthy family businesses with next gens coming on board to be stewards of long term sustainability and success. In doing so, our many interactions with next gens tell us of their keen interest to broaden and strengthen their networks, and demonstrating strong collaborative spirit for what they believe in. They’re passionate about making positive impact to society and are exploring ways and opportunities on how this can be part of the family business agenda.

"Next Gens would have to take one of four paths to success, taking on the role of either steward, transformer, intrapreneur or entrepreneur and regardless of which role they play, all will need to consider the balance of these five factors - culture, communication, commitment, credibility and clarity. In order to successfully drive change and ensure family wealth and values are protected, next gens and current gens will have to align their goals.”

The UBS Group AG and PwC joint billionaires insight report, New wealth creators gain momentum, analyses the wider societal impact of billionaires in terms of improving living standards, job creation and providing access to cultural capital.

Specifically, the report finds that the 1,542 billionaires analysed own or partly own companies that employ at least 27.7 million people worldwide – roughly the same as the UK’s working population. 2016’s new billionaires employ at least 2.8 million people.

Many of the billionaires today are linked to the companies in sectors such as technology that are powering the new economy, as well as many of those lifting living standards in emerging markets.

Key APAC findings:

Asia leads the way in number of billionaires, driven by China

  • Total billionaire wealth rose by 17 percent from USD 5.1 trillion to USD 6.0 trillion in 2016, led by a surge in Asia’s emerging billionaire class and growth in the materials, industrials, financial and technology sectors.
  • On average, a new billionaire was created in Asia every other day. The total number of Asian billionaires rose by almost a quarter to 637, compared to 563 in the US. China has the highest number of new billionaires.
  • The combined wealth of Asian billionaires grew by almost a third from USD 1.5 trillion to USD 2.0 trillion. If the current trend continues, the total wealth of Asian billionaires will overtake that of their counterparts in the US in four years.
  • US still maintains the largest concentration of billionaire wealth. In 2016, US billionaires saw their wealth increase from USD 2.4 trillion to USD 2.8 trillion, driven by technological innovation, financial services and materials.
  • The story for European billionaires in 2016 was the preservation of wealth. The billionaire population remained static with 24 new billionaires entering the wealth band and 21 dropping off, a third of them due to death. This corresponds with previous findings that Europe has the highest number of multi-generational billionaires.

Majority of Asian billionaires are taking their companies public, compared to the West

  • Entrepreneurs are creating businesses faster than ever. In Asia, most wealth is self-made. The Asian, and especially the Chinese, factor listing young companies quickly on stock markets.
  • The public listing gives status, access to finance and crystallizes personal wealth. It also improves perception of the business and the brand with customers, suppliers and employees.
  • In 2016, sixty-three percent of Asia's 568 billionaire-linked companies were publicly listed. This is in contrast to just 37% of the 421 US companies and 40% of the 256 in Europe.
  • In Asia, many acquisitive Chinese businesses ambitious to expand and diversify overseas have used listings in Hong Kong, London or New York as a gateway to international acquisitions.

The rise of networks

  • Billionaires and entrepreneurial ultra high net worth population are increasingly turning to their peers to orchestrate deals and access significant funding outside of capital markets.
  • Many billionaires’ family businesses also maintain high allocations to private equity. On average, Asia Pacific family offices allocate a fifth of their average portfolio to private equity (including direct venture capital and private equity, co-investing and private equity funds).
  • Across the world, elite philanthropic and impact investing networks are emerging.

Asian billionaires are joining the ranks of top art collectors

  • Besides philanthropy, billionaires are creating alternative legacies through their cultural pursuits. They are becoming more engaged in the arts and, increasingly, investing in sports clubs.
  • In 1995, there were 28 billionaires on the list of top 200 art collectors in the world. By 2016, that number had grown to 72. While US collectors continue to lead the list (with 42 of them), Asian and especially Chinese, art collectors are increasingly active. In 2016, there were 14 Asian art collectors compared to 1 in 2006.
  • Private museums are growing in number, especially in Asia. Many art collectors are setting up private museums to share their collections with the public. Public museums are also receiving more funding, increasing the accessibility of art to the public.
  • Billionaires are also helping sports clubs to become more sustainable; helping them to deliver associated benefits to the communities they are part of.

Notes to Editors

About UBS

UBS provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as private clients in Switzerland. The operational structure of the Group is comprised of our Corporate Center and five business divisions: Wealth Management, Wealth Management Americas, Personal & Corporate Banking, Asset Management and the Investment Bank. UBS’s strategy builds on the strengths of all of its businesses and focuses its efforts on areas in which it excels, while seeking to capitalize on the compelling growth prospects in the businesses and regions in which it operates, in order to generate attractive and sustainable returns for its shareholders. All of its businesses are capital-efficient and benefit from a strong competitive position in their targeted markets. Headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, UBS has offices in 54 countries, including all major financial centers, and employs approximately 60,000 people. UBS Group AG is the holding company of the UBS Group. Under Swiss company law, UBS Group AG is organized as an Aktiengesellschaft, a corporation that has issued shares of common stock to investors.

Building on a deep understanding of our clients’ mindset, motivations and core values, we create bespoke solutions which are bold, innovative and tailored precisely to their individual needs. The four dimensions of Great Wealth – business, investments, passion, and legacy – form the basis on which we open a dialogue and begin a partnership with our clients across generations for generations, so that Great Wealth endures.

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Media contact

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