Hong Kong passes New York as home to the most ultra-rich people

The former British colony saw its number of ultra-wealthy increase 31% last year to about 10,000

by Alfred Liu / BLOOMBERG

New York has lost its crown as home to the most ultra-rich people, beaten out by the rising tide of extreme wealth in Asia.

Hong Kong surpassed the Big Apple as the city with the highest population of people worth at least US$30 million (RM124.08 million), according to a new report.

The former British colony saw its number of ultra-wealthy increase 31% last year to about 10,000, research firm Wealth-X found, higher than the nearly 9,000-strong population of the US’ largest city. Tokyo came third, while Paris beat out London to take the European crown as Brexit weighed down the UK capital.

The number of ultra-rich worldwide rose 13% last year, according to Wealth-X, totalling about 256,000 people with combined assets of US$31.5 trillion.

Asia saw the fastest growth, driven by mainland China and Hong Kong, the study’s authors wrote. Reflecting the region’s rise, its share of the global population of people with at least US$30 million rose to just over onefourth, up from around 18% a decade ago.

“Asia Pacific is forecast to close the ultrawealth gap with other regions over the next five years, but is expected to remain behind Europe, the Middle East and Africa in absolute terms,” the report’s authors wrote. The number of ultra-wealthy in Asia Pacific is expected to rise at a compound rate of 8.3% a year, they said.

Women accounted for about 35,000 of the ultra-rich last year, a record-high share of nearly 14%, the study found.

While Hong Kong topped the city rankings, nowhere in mainland China made the top 10, despite the country being third in the list of nations. That’s because China’s wealthy are widely dispersed, illustrated by the fact it was home to 26 of the 30 fastest-growing cities for the ultra-rich.

“The dynamism of wealth creation across China’s vast landscape is nevertheless staggering,” the authors wrote.

Hong Kong’s rise was also a reflection of China’s improving fortunes, with its position at the top of the global list “supported by enhanced trade and investment links with mainland China”, according to the authors.

The relative struggles of commodity markets was a factor in the Middle East posting the weakest global growth in both assets and individuals, rising 4.8% and 4.4% respectively.

Every region saw gains, however, thanks to last year’s benign markets, the report’s authors wrote.

“Having experienced a roller-coaster ride the previous year, economic and financial markets almost without exception surprised on the upside in 2017,” they said. “On an annual basis, world real GDP expanded at its fastest pace since 2011.”

Still, the ultra-rich held more of their wealth — 35% — in liquid assets such as cash than anything else, the study found. Private holdings accounted for about 32%, while public holdings were 26%. Alternative investments such as real estate, art and yachts made up 6.6% of total assets.

The UK’s looming departure from the European Union factored into last year’s trends, the study found. Paris’ rise over London — the City of Lights saw a 17% increase in its ultra-wealthy numbers to more than 3,900 individuals — was because London was “hampered in part by Brexit-related uncertainty in UK financial markets and across the wider economy”, the authors wrote.—Bloomberg