By NIKHIL HUTHEESING
You can’t keep the rich down for long. Global wealth made a remarkable comeback in 2009, increasing by 11.5% to $111.5 trillion. That’s according to a new report, The Boston Consulting Group’s Global Wealth 2010 Report, released Thursday by Boston Consulting Group. The report breaks down wealth by region and by country, creating a geographic portrait of where the world’s wealth is accumulating and at what rate.
North America posted the largest absolute gain in households with assets under management. Its wealth totaled $4.6 trillion (a 15% jump over 2008). But the largest percentage gain occurred in Asia-Pacific, where wealth skyrocketed by 22%, or $3.1 trillion. That’s nearly double the global rate.
Latin American household asset growth rose by 16% to $3.4 billion, and Europe, despite the massive debt problems it now faces, was the wealthiest region with more than $37 trillion in assets under management, an increase of 8.8% from 2008.
Millionaires Hold 38% of Global Wealth
Boston Consulting Group’s report includes a revealing list countries with the highest percentage of millionaire households, but before getting to that, here are some interesting tidbits: The number of millionaire households in the world represents less than 1% of all households. Even so, these most fortunate ones owned about 38% of the world’s wealth in 2009, up from 36% in 2008. In North America, Africa and the Middle East, millionaire households represented more than half of the wealth in those regions.
Another juicy morsel: The number of millionaire households rose by 14% in 2009 to 11.2 million, and the U.S. had by far the most millionaire households, with 4.7 million.
But that doesn’t mean millionaires are crowding U.S. streets or that sumptuous yachts dominate the nation’s waterways. In fact, you’re more likely to find those conditions in Singapore, which had the highest percentage of millionaire households in the world.
Yes, that puts Singapore at the top of Boston Consulting Group list of the top 10 countries with the greatest proportion of millionaire households. You may be surprised by the full run-down:
Population: 4.7 million
Percentage of Millionaire Households: 11.4%
Who would think the tiny Republic of Singapore would be crammed with so many millionaires? The country, all of just 247 square miles, has emerged from the recession and has rebounded in a big way. Its GDP, exports and manufacturing are all rising, and so, too, are home prices. That has led Singapore to boast the highest concentration of millionaires anywhere on the planet. Among its very rich: Ng Teng Fong, a real estate tycoon, and Wee Cho Yaw, who runs United Overseas Bank, one of Singapore’s big lenders.
2) Hong Kong
Population: 7.1 million
Percentage of Millionaire Households: 8.8%
Hong Kong, the home of Li Ka-shing, who runs conglomerates Cheung Kong and Hutchison Whampoa, had 205,000 millionaire households in 2009 and takes the number two spot for percentage of millionaire households. Hong Kong’s close relationship with mainland China brings benefits and risks, but it’s been good for many of the wealthiest, who made their money by investing in a real estate market that has no shortage of swanky hotels and malls.
Population: 7.6 million
Percentage of Millionaire Households: 8.4%
The Swiss economy is recovering from slow growth during the recession, but a good many of its citizens thrived during the upswing, bringing it to third place in percentage of millionaire households. The country boasts 285,000 of them, up 19.5% from 2008. Driving the recovery: manufacturing, rising exports and consumer spending. Among the country’s rich: Swiss biotech tycoon Ernesto Bertarelli, who is, perhaps, better known for winning the America’s Cup in 2003.
Population: 2.8 million
Percentage of Millionaire Households: 8.2%
The rising price of oil has led to more millionaires in this tiny country. With some 100 billion barrels of crude, Kuwait has been growing rapidly. But the oil-dependent nation now plans to spend up to $140 billion over the next five years to diversify away from oil and to attract more investment — a move that could help it ascend this list’s ranks. Such a strategy may help billionaire Nasser Al Kharafi, chairman of one of the most diversified and largest conglomerates in the Arab world. His food division, Americana, has the Middle East franchise rights to KFC, Wimpy, TGI Fridays and Pizza Hut, among others.
Percentage of Millionaire Households: 7.4%
Qatar’s economy expanded by about 8.7% last year, thanks to growth in the natural gas business. That helped the country, already the world’s largest gas exporter, to emerge from the global economic crisis pretty much unscathed, leaving many of its millionaire households in good stead. Among its megarich: Bader Al Darwish, with a fortune of about $1.7 billion. Al Darwish runs Darwish Holdings, which operates businesses including real estate, investments and retail services.
6) United Arab Emirates
Population: 4.9 million
Percentage of Millionaire Households: 6.2%
As the world’s third-largest oil exporter, the UAE’s economic growth is expected to rise to 3.2% this year, after posting a 1.3% increase in 2009,. Like others, its oil business has generated wealth among its citizens. It also helps that UAE isn’t expected to suffer from the eurozone debt crisis. The country is home to Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair and his family, who run Mashreqbank and the second-largest flour milling company in the Mideast, as well as megamalls.
7) United States
Population: 310.2 million
Percentage of Millionaire Households: 4.1%
The 4.7 million U.S. millionaires in 2009 was up by 15.1% over 2008. But as a market percentage, the U.S. falls relatively low on the top 10 list. The country, which is home to two of the world’s wealthiest people, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, saw its economy bounce back in 2009 from the year before as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 40%. By the end of 2009, the economy grew at its fastest pace in more than six years, even though many businesses put the brakes on hiring.
Population: 10.4 million
Percentage of Millionaire Households: 3.5%
Suffering from spiraling debt and political problems, Belgium still managed to hold on to a number of millionaires. The country has set a goal of getting its budget deficit to 4.8% of GDP in 2010, which is far below Europe’s average. But Belgium’s total debt will rise above 100% of GDP, placing it behind only Greece and Italy. The debt crisis in Europe will also likely take a toll on the country’s economy in 2010. The good news is that Belgium has a trade surplus, and household savings are high. Among its richest: Albert Frere, who founded the media, utilities and oil conglomerate, Compagnie Nationale a Portefeuille.
Population: 7.4 million
Percentage of Millionaire Households: 3.3%
Unlike other markets, the story in Israel wasn’t about rising real estate values or credit, but about gains in technology, which some say will help lead the country to continued economic growth. While 2009 was a good year for the economy, the current eurozone crisis could hurt Israeli exports because about 33% of them go to Europe. Rich man in Israel: shipping tycoon Sammy Ofer, worth north of $6 billion.
Population: 23 million
Percentage of Millionaire Households: 3%
Taiwan may be last on the top 10 list — but that’s still quite a feat. The country was hit hard by the recession mostly because its economy depends on trade. But as the world economy skittishly improves, Taiwanese families have seen their fortunes rise. The country now has some 230,000 millionaire households. That’s an increase of 22.1% over 2008. One of its richest is Terry Gou of Foxconn, a maker of electronics for Apple (AAPL), Nokia (NOK), Nintendo and others. That company has been in the news recently because 13 of its workers have committed suicide or tried to.
Population figures: The CIA World Factbook
Percentage of millionaire households: The Boston Consulting Group’s Global Wealth 2010 Report.