Asia now has more billionaires than the US – and Singapore is one of 4 key markets responsible for this growth

Asia now has more billionaires than the US, and may soon also overtake the world’s largest billionaire market in terms of total billionaire wealth.

UBS today launched a new report on billionaire wealth which showed that for the first time, Asian billionaires outnumbered their US counterparts with 637 billionaires compared to the latter’s 563.

And while the total wealth of Asia’s billionaires grew by almost 30 per cent to $2 trillion, the US remains the largest concentration of billionaire wealth at $2.8 trillion.

Photo: UBS and PwC

Despite this, the upward trend in Asia’s billionaire market could result in Asia overtaking the US in terms of billionaire wealth in just four years.

Photo: UBS and PwC

The study, jointly published with PwC, was based on 1,542 billionaires across 14 largest billionaire markets which account for around 80% of the billionaire wealth globally. Of these, the key Asian markets identified were China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.

Unsurprisingly, China led the growth in Asia’s billionaire count, with 318 billionaires in 2016, an increase of 27% from the year before.

Singapore experienced an increase of 24% billionaires from 2015 to a total of 21 in 2016, while Hong Kong saw an increase of 8 per cent to 69, and Japan registered a growth of 22% to 33.

This means that Asia produced a new billionaire every other day in 2016.

Photo: UBS and PwC

Of all the Asian markets studies, Singapore was the only billionaire market which did not register any drop-offs.

Thanks to China’s booming entrepreneur culture, $789 billion of the $804 billion in the country’s billionaire wealth was self-made.

Photo: UBS and PwC

In contrast, Singapore’s $59 billion in billionaire wealth is made up of just $27 billion in self-made wealth, with the remaining $32 billion being multi-generational.

When broken down further, Singapore’s 21 billionaires most commonly earned their wealth from the health industries, real estate and consumer & retail businesses. Only 57% of these companies are publicly listed, the lowest in all four key Asian markets studied.

Overall though, 63% of Asia’s 568 billionaire-linked companies were publicly listed. This is in contrast to just 37% of the 421 US companies and 40% of the 256 in Europe.

Ravi Raju, Head Global Ultra High Net Worth Asia Pacific, UBS, said: “Today, three out of five billionaires in Asia have a relationship with UBS. Many of the Asian billionaires are first generation entrepreneurs. This has led to a rise of many Asian billionaire-linked companies that are publicly listed.”

Singapore’s billionaire wealth was also uniquely 100% male-owned. Hong Kong had the highest female representation of 14%.

The report also found that billionaires and entrepreneurial ultra high net worth population are increasingly turning to their peers to orchestrate deals and access significant funding outside of capital markets.

Many billionaires’ family businesses also maintain high allocations to private equity. On average, Asia Pacific family offices allocate a fifth of their average portfolio to private equity (including direct venture capital and private equity, co-investing and private equity funds).

“What fuels part of the Asian century are wealthy family businesses with next gens coming on board to be stewards of long term sustainability and success. In doing so, our many interactions with next gens tell us of their keen interest to broaden and strengthen their networks, and demonstrating strong collaborative spirit for what they believe in.

“They’re passionate about making positive impact to society and are exploring ways and opportunities on how this can be part of the family business agenda,” Ng Siew Quan, Asia Pacific Entrepreneurial and Private Business Leader, PwC said.

While they are known for also putting money in philanthropy, billionaires globally are also creating alternative legacies through the arts and by investing in sports clubs.

While 42 US collectors continue to lead the list of top art collectors, Asian – and especially Chinese – art collectors are increasingly active. In 2016, there were 14 Asian art collectors compared to just 1 in 2006.

Despite this, the number of Singapore billionaire collectors on the list remains at zero, partly due to most of the collections being held privately, Ravi Raju said.

You can view the report’s Asian country comparison in the table below:

Photo: UBS and PwC