The stock market meltdowns in 2018 obliterated US$1 trillion of the fortunes of the world’s richest individuals, according to a new global rich list by wealth compiler Hurun Report.
The report, China’s version of the Forbes rich list, showed Chinese billionaires still outnumbered those from any other country as of January 31, at 658.
Several newly minted ones amassed wealth through big share offerings, according to the Hurun Global Rich List 2019, while 212 Chinese tycoons lost their dollar billionaire status
The United States had 584 billionaires, followed by Germany with 117.
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The biggest gains in wealth last year came in the areas of technology, media and telecoms, followed by property and other investments, manufacturing and retailing.
The wealthiest Chinese was Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba – owner of the South China Morning Post – the world’s 22nd richest person, with US$39 billion.
However, Pony Ma Huateng, CEO of internet giant Tencent Holdings, with US$38 billion and Xu Jiayin of property developer Evergrande, with US$37 billion, were close behind.
Though Chinese and other Asians are steadily gaining in wealth, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos topped the global chart for the second year running, with wealth estimated by the Hurun Global Rich List 2019 at US$147 billion.
Bill Gates was ranked second with US$96 billion and Warren Buffett was third with US$88 billion.
Gates’ fortune rose US$6 billion in 2018, said Hurun Report CEO Rupert Hoogewerf, despite his enthusiasm for philanthropy.
US President Donald Trump’s wealth fell by US$500 million last year, the report said, to US$3 billion, or 793rd.
The only Asian among the top 10 richest in the world was Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, who is ranked eighth with wealth estimated at US$54 billion.
Overall, the report said there are 2,470 billionaires in the world by Hurun’s reckoning, down 224 from last year. Their total overall wealth fell by US$950 billion from the year before to US$9.6 trillion thanks to stock market gyrations and a strong US dollar, it said.
Hoogewerf said he believes there may be more than 6,000 billionaires in the world, since many people seek to hide the extent of their wealth, especially in the Middle East.
The newly minted Chinese billionaires included Colin Huang Zheng of e-commerce platform Pinduoduo and Chinese Hotpot King Zhang Yong and his wife, Shu Ping.
Others were Zhang Yiming of ByteDance, an internet technology “unicorn” valued at US$75 billion, and Zhan Ketuan of bitcoin miner Bitmain.
Hurun issued the list jointly with Chinese luxury real estate developer Loong Palace, which markets villas and other properties to the wealthy.
While the apex of the world’s wealthiest remains in the US and Europe, such lists show the evolving landscape of economic power.
Beijing was the city with the most billionaires, at 103, followed by New York at 92 and Hong Kong with 69. Of the top 20 cities with the most billionaires, 13 were in Asia.
Last year’s market meltdowns took the biggest toll on Japan, where the Tokyo Stock Exchange lost 43 per cent of its value in market capitalisation.
Yet even Shanghai’s exchange lost nearly a quarter of its value and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plunged almost 16 per cent.
According to the list, the company that created the most billionaires was Thailand’s CP Group, a conglomerate with operations spanning agriculture, telecoms, retailing and finance, which added five to its total of 17 up to the end of January.
Next in line was Red Bull, with a dozen billionaires among its top shareholders, Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz and the 11 children of the company’s co-founder, Chaleo Yoovidhya.
Thanks to such big family fortunes, the Thai capital Bangkok ranked eighth in the number of resident billionaires.