Chinese luxe finance magazine The Hurun Report revealed last week that more billionaires hail from Asia than from North America, a first since the publication was founded in 1999.
In Asia, 608 individuals have a net worth in excess of $1 billion (all figures are adjusted to U.S. dollars), followed by North America with 440 and Europe with 324.
The U.S. still has more billionaires — 409 — than any other country, followed distantly by China, whose 317 billionaires make up just more than half of all those throughout Asia. But Asia’s diverse and burgeoning economies have produced more newly rich individuals, nearly all of whom have made their own fortunes.
That’s a contrast with Europe — where a disproportionate amount of billionaires’ wealth is generational and inherited — and with North America, whose billionaires have found varying paths to fortune.
All of China’s billionaires have become wealthy in their own lifetimes through real estate transactions. Noting the trend reflects “the [Chinese] urbanization boom of the last generation,” Hurun reports seven of the world’s top 10 real estate billionaires reside either in Hong Kong or in China.
With 76 billionaires (every one of them self-made), Moscow is home to more than any other world city, including second-place New York, which has 70. Like the rest of Asia, a significant portion of Russia’s wealthiest residents have ties to real estate, along with manufacturing and energy.
Most European billionaires are either majority owners of industrial or retail concerns, or scions of luxury fashion brands: Louis Vuitton, Hermes, BMW and Patek Philippe, to sample a (very) few. Of the 31 billionaires worldwide whose wealth was made in luxury goods, only seven reside outside Europe. Two more brands — DeBeers and Cartier, both South African — deliver diamonds, a “luxury commodity” with close ties to the European luxury market. A third, the OCTEA mining group, is based in Israel.
Americans who top the list generated their money primarily through investments; technology, media and telecommunications; and the retail market. Berkshire Hathaway primary shareholder Warren Buffett remained the richest man in the United States (second worldwide), followed by Microsoft’s Bill Gates (fourth worldwide).
Mexican investor and diversified shareholder Carlos Slim remained the richest man in the world, with a personal fortune worth an estimated $66 billion.
The United States remains atop the billionaire list in another aspect: combined wealth. The 409 American billionaires on the Hurun list retain a total net worth of $1.712 trillion. Hurun did not disclose a researched figure for the combined wealth of billionaires in second-place China.
Chinese ambition fuels the publication’s interest in compiling the list, with Hurun Report Chairman and founder Rupert Hoogewerf noting that “China’s entrepreneurs want to see the global context of their recent success. This is why Hurun Report, a media headquartered in Shanghai, China, has set out on this quest to track down and rank the world’s billionaires.”
Interestingly, the publication freely admits it hasn’t succeeded in enumerating every billionaire worldwide, with Hoogewerf estimating there may be twice as many as were listed in this year’s Hurun Report list.
View the complete list as well as supporting statistics and billionaire demographics here.