Billionaire bye-byes

More billionaires live in Beijing than in Los Angeles. Next year, that may change.

November 6, 2013
November 6, 2013

Times haven’t been easy for the world’s aspirational billionaires. A net of only 10 people around the globe joined the nine-figure club between July 2012 and June 2013, an increase of 0.5%, according to a new study by Wealth-X, a research firm, and UBS, an investment bank. (While more than 10 people around the world became billionaires, 29 Europeans fell back to mere millionaire status.)

China minted 10 new billionaires, bringing its total to 157, the biggest increase of any country in the world. Much of China’s billionaire wealth is sloshing around China’s big cities. Notably, even though the report counts Hong Kong separately, 18 of its 30 billionaires originally came from mainland China. (Hong Kong is where many mainland companies are incorporated; the study locates individual billionaires based on the headquarters of their primary business). As you can see, Beijing’s fat cats are more numerous than Hollywood moguls, Silicon Valley tycoons, oil barons and people surnamed Pritzker. Here’s China:

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And how those compare with leading US cities:

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That’s not to imply that China’s overtaking the US, for anyone reading Sino-US competition into the data. America’s 515 billionaires claim a combined net worth of more than $2 trillion, 34% of the combined net worth of the world’s billionaires.

Plus, the rapid growth of Chinese billionaires might be peaking. The report’s authors warn that the “threat of a real estate bubble in China could have a negative impact on Chinese billionaires in the future,” noting that property is the primary business of 6% of mainland Chinese billionaires and 27% of Hong Kong’s.

A little more ammo behind that point is that the average mainland Chinese billionaire holds only $240 million in cash, compared with the $567 million in cash held by the average billionaire everywhere else on the planet. Though the report doesn’t break down the average Chinese billionaire’s personal real estate holdings—the global average is 3% of a billionaire’s net worth—it’s safe to assume that a good portion of that mega-wealth is property, considering past research on the real estate investments of China’s ultra-rich.

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