Five BRICS cities with the fastest-growing populations of multimillionaires

December 11, 2012
December 11, 2012

Some of the world’s fastest-growing pockets of wealth are in five cities you may never have heard of. These burgeoning populations of ultra-millionaires in the BRICS economies—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—demonstrate how spending power in emerging markets is spreading beyond major financial and industrial centers like Beijing, São Paulo, and New Delhi.

Here are five cities, one from each of the BRICS, where “ultra high net worth individuals” (defined as people with net worth of $30 million or more, excluding homes) are growing at an extremely fast rate, according to a new report by research firm WealthInsight:

Chongqing, China

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“Someday this will be all ours, honey.”AP Photo / Alexander F. Yuan

You may know this sprawling western Chinese city from news of its former party official Bo Xilai, who dramatically fell from grace this year and is slowly being erased from the city’s history. Chongqing is China’s third largest auto producer, and shots of government support are turning the city into a center for electronics, chemicals, and medical equipment manufacturing. Its population of multimillionaires jumped to 96, an almost 80% increase between 2007 and 2011—the steepest growth of any city in the BRICS economies.

Bo championed a “Chongqing model,” briefly considered a model for elsewhere in China, that combined support for state-owned companies with traditional communist values (revolutionary songs and an overall revival or “red” culture). Officials have more recently denounced the concept. Still, it seems like some sort of Chongqing model is working. The city grew 15.8% last year, compared to the country’s overall growth of 10.5%, tying with Tianjin to be China’s fastest growing city, and its population of ultra-wealthy millionaires will almost double by 2016, WealthInsight predicts.

Belo Horizonte, Brazil

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Belo Horizonte translates to “beautiful horizon”Rainer Brockerhoff / Flickr

Brazil is the richest of the BRICS economies, in terms of wealth per capita, with each individual holding on average of $16,410 in assets, according to WealthInsight. (The world average is $28,000.) Belo Horizonte, the southeastern city also known as Beagá (how the letters “BH” sound in Portuguese), is home to the country’s fastest growing population of ultra millionaires. Revenues from mining and heavy industry have helped the city most known for having the highest number of bars per capita become the country’s fourth largest economy and third largest metro area. With that growth, BH’s number of multimillionaires has jumped by more than half, to 330, since 2007.

Multinationals are adding to the city’s global stature as well as wealth. One of Google‘s two Brazil headquarters is in Belo Horizonte. Steel and mining giant ArcelorMittal is based in Belo Horizonte, and auto companies Fiat and Toshiba (in Portuguese) have major manufacturing plants near the city.

Novosibirsk, Russia

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The Ob River near NovosibirskAP Photo / Ilnar Salakhiev

The city nicknamed the “Chicago of Siberia” (paywall) in the 1940s, for its growth and industrialization, is still a major industrial center in Russia and now the country’s third most populous city. While St. Petersberg and Yekaterinburg saw the fastest growth of the ultra wealthy, this affluent group is expected to grow the fastest in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk between 2011 and 2016. Its current number of 31 millionaires should jump by more than half by 2016, WealthInsight says.

However, wealth overall is suffering in Russia. It was the only country among the BRICS to see a decline in the total number of millionaires, those with more than $1 million in assets, between 2007 and 2011, partly because depreciation of the Russian ruble lowered the dollar worth of Russian fortunes.

Pune, India

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Welcoming the Land RoverAP Photo / Rafiq Maqbool

India’s roster of emerging cities (New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore) has been expanded to include Pune, in the western state of Maharashtra. Growing auto and IT sectors have meant that Pune’s GDP per capita is one of the highest of any Indian city, making it India’s sixth wealthiest metro area. Its population of 55 ultra-high-net-worth millionaires should more than double by 2016, WealthInsight predicts.

Pune officials like to brag that the city has been dubbed India’s “Motor City” (paywall) by Britain’s The Independent. It is home to domestic heavyweight Tata Motors and international automakers like General Motors, Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, and Fiat. The location of several engineering colleges and universities, Pune has become a new center for IT companies and by some estimates has the highest number of software companies after Bangalore. To some analysts, Pune’s success so far—and its potential as an export hub—make the city a model for the future of Indian manufacturing.

Durban, South Africa

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The Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South AfricaGetty Images / David Rogers

What was once a sandy lagoon on the eastern coast of South Africa is now the country’s third-richest city, with 31 ultra wealthy millionaires in 2011. The city, also known as eThekwini (Zulu for “lagoon”), saw its population of multimillionaires expand by a third since 2007. Its growth has been helped by a relatively diverse economy based on port activity, manufacturing and tourism.

In 2003, Durban was the top port for containers shipped to Africa and second in the southern hemisphere, after Melbourne, Australia. The city’s warm temperature and beaches make it an attraction for global events. Durban is a host city for the 2014 FIFA cup in Brazil and the Top Gear festival in June. South Africa’s wealthy, who mostly live in Johannesburg and Cape Town, have begun moving to the resort town Umhlanga, north of Durban, where they can spend their days shopping at the Gateway Theatre of Shopping, one of the largest and most luxurious shopping centers in the country as well as Africa.

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