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The world’s billionaires became 19 per cent richer in 2017, with the majority of growth led in China

Billionaires made more money in 2017 than any year in recorded history.

A total of 199 billionaires were created over the year globally, with nearly a third gaining their wealth through some form of innovation.

The world’s richest people saw their collective wealth rise by 19 percent to (£6.9tn), with the majority of growth led in China.

A view of the Huangpu river and Shanghai skyline in China

The number of billionaires in China rose to 373 from 318 with a joint wealth of $1.12 trillion, up 39 percent, UBS reported in its 2018 Billionaires Insight Report.  


Second place: Bill Gates

Second place: Bill Gates

 1. Jeff Bezos – $112billion

The 54-year-old entrepreneur founded Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, in 1994. He became the world’s richest person last year.

2. Bill Gates – $90billion

The Microsoft founder has been on the Forbes Rich List since 1987, and between 1995 and 2017, he ‘won’ the top position all but four years. He is also known for his philanthropic work along with his wife Melinda.

3. Warren Buffett – $84billion

The American business investor is the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which wholly owns companies such as Geico and Dairy Queen and parts of Cocoa Cola, Kraft Heinz and Apple.

4. Bernard Arnault – $72billion

The 69-year-old is head of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury-goods company, which includes Louis Vuitton, Dior, Moët & Chandon champagne and Hennessy cognac. He is the richest person in fashion – and in France.

5. Mark Zuckerberg – $71billion

Zuckerberg, 34, launched Facebook along with his college friends while at Harvard University, and is still the CEO of the social media giant.

6. Amancio Ortega – $70billion

The 82-year-old Spanish business tycoon is founder of the Inditex fashion group, which includes high street favorite Zara.

7. Carlos Slim Helu, America Movil – $67.1billion

The Mexican business magnate, 78, was the world’s richest person from 2010 to 2015. He has made his fortune from buying into Mexican companies, and accounts for 40 per cent of the listings on the Mexican Stock Exchange.

8 and 9. Charles and David Koch – $60billion each

The brothers, aged 82 and 78, head up Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the United States.

10. Larry Ellison – $58.5billion

The 73-year-old American co-founded software company Oracle. He is the owner of the sixth largest Hawaiian island and his own racing yacht team.

Source: The Forbes List

The rest did so by scaling up businesses in the Asia-Pacific region, UBS and consultants PwC said.

In the Americas region, the wealth of billionaires increased at a slower rate of 12 percent, to $3.6 trillion, with the United States creating 53 new billionaires in 2017 compared to 87 five years ago.

Currency appreciation saw European billionaires’ wealth grow by 19 percent although the number of billionaires rose by just 4.0 percent to 414. 

‘China’s billionaire entrepreneurs are leading their country’s economic transformation, and by extension that of the rest of Asia,’ the Billionaires Insights Report said.

‘Over little more than 10 years, they have created some of the world’s largest companies, raised living standards and made fortunes at an unprecedented pace.’

One Chinese billionaire contributed to the report and said that ‘nowhere else in the world can you find better conditions for growth than in China. 

‘The continued progress of wealth creation is supported by government policies liberating the economy, while urbanisation and business model disruption has crafted powerful new entrepreneurs.’ 

UBS, whose wealth management arm manages around $2.5 trillion in assets, and PwC said there were already more billionaires in Asia than in the United States and they were on course to be wealthier than their U.S. peers within three years.

‘A new cohort of Chinese entrepreneurs is challenging Silicon Valley, amid rising tensions over trade and intellectual property. They are developing new business models, seizing opportunities, moving rapidly between business sectors.’

China produced 50 so-called ‘unicorns’ – companies with a valuation of at least $1 billion – from 2016 to 2018, slightly behind the 62 produced in the United States, the report said. 

Rapid urbanisation and productivity growth would help the young entrepreneurs at the forefront of China’s wealth creation continue to reach the ranks of the billionaires in the coming years, it said.

The study also warned of lower economic growth in the United States and China if the trade war between the two countries escalates. 

‘Over the last decade, Chinese billionaires have created some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, raised living standards,’ said Josef Stadler, head of Ultra High Net Worth at UBS Global Wealth Management.

‘But this is just the beginning. China’s vast population, technology innovation and productivity growth combined with government support, are providing unprecedented opportunities for individuals not only to build businesses but also to change people’s lives for the better.’

There are currently 2,158 billionaires across the globe. Over 40 of the world’s 179 billionaires created in the last year inherited their wealth. 

It is predicted that a further $3.4 trillion will be handed down to these individuals over the course of the next 20 years.

‘With wealth set to pass from entrepreneurs to their heirs in the coming years, the 21st century multi-generational families are being created,’ the report said. 

‘A major wealth transition has begun. Over the past five years, the sum passed by deceased billionaires to beneficiaries has grown by an average of 17% each year, to reach $117bn in 2017. 

‘In that year alone, 44 heirs inherited more than a billion dollars each.’

Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man and founder of online retailer, Amazon

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man and founder of online retailer, Amazon


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