Chinese billionaires rebuild wealth to US$1.68 trillion, the size of Russia’s economy, by seizing coronavirus-led opportunities

Mainland China minted 36 new billionaires this year despite economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, according to new report by UBS, PwC. Chinese billionaires now account for half of the wealthiest people in the Asia-Pacific region. The nation’s wealthiest grew their fortunes by nearly US$500 billion, some seizing a buying “opportunity of a lifetime” arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of billionaires in China increased to 415 with a combined wealth of US$1.68 trillion from January to July, according to the latest billionaires report jointly published by UBS and PwC. That compared with 114 billionaires with a combined wealth of US$228 billion a decade ago. The net gain is larger than the size of Nigeria’s gross domestic product which, at US$448 billion in 2019, was ranked the world’s 25th largest by the World Bank. Hong Kong’s GDP was US$366 billion. The US$1.68 trillion collective wealth of the country’s richest, who include Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma, Tencent Holdings founder Pony Ma Huateng and NetEase founder William Ding Lei, would be just below the size of Russia’s gross domestic product, which was the world’s 11th largest, if they were an economic entity.

Chinese billionaires now account for half of the wealthiest persons in the Asia-Pacific region, which is home to about four in 10 billionaires globally. Mainland China’s wealthiest have seen their fortunes grow by 71 per cent since 2018, the report found.

“We have seen quite a number of client billionaires, who have been very active in capturing the [market] window, particularly when it corrected back in March and April,” said Amy Lo, co-head of UBS Wealth Management, Asia-Pacific. “Quite a number of billionaires weren’t there to make that kind of big bet. The selective few [who did] are really making lots of money out of it.”

Globally, billionaires’ wealth topped US$10.2 trillion this year, a 27.9 per cent increase over 2019. The previous high was US$8.9 trillion in 2017. Women, such as Country Garden Holdings cochair woman and China’s richest woman Yang Huiyan, accounted for about 8 per cent of billionaires in Asia-Pacific in the past year, compared with 12 per cent in the Americas and 17 per cent in western Europe. In Hong Kong, women accounted for 16 per cent of the city’s billionaires.

In Asia-Pacific, billionaires saw their wealth declined by 2.1 per cent to US$2.4 trillion between the end of the 2019 billionaires report and April of this year as concerns about the spread of the coronavirus and its effect on economic growth weighed on markets globally, the report found.


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