Is wealth generation on the move again, this time from east to west? If two different rich lists, published by Forbes in the US and Hurun in China, are anything to go by, that appears to be the case.
According to the Hurun Rich List, which tracks wealth in China, nearly half of the country’s 1,000 richest have seen their fortunes fall this year. The average wealth of the super-rich has dropped by 9% to $860 million (€665 million).
The fall in fortune was largely due to a weakening property market and a slowdown in economic growth, said Hurun, while those involved in manufacturing saw their fortunes rise.
This year’s richest on the list had his family business to thank for his growing wealth. Zong Qinghou, the founder and majority owner of drinks group Wahaha, topped the list with a fortune of $12.6 billion.
The group chair, who along with his family owns about 80% of Wahaha, saw his wealth rise from $10.7 billion the previous year.
Second on the list was Wang Jianlin, who is the founder and chair of property developer and cinema operator Dalian Wanda, with a fortune of $10.3 billion.
One of the biggest losers was Liang Wengen, founder of a machinery company, who dropped to the fifth position from first last year. Hurun also said that 37 of the 1,000 richest in China lost around half of their wealth, while the total number of billionaires – in dollar terms – fell to 251. This was 20 fewer than in 2011.
Meanwhile, Forbes’s list of the 400 richest people in the US found their combined net worth increased to $1.7 trillion from $1.5 trillion a year ago.
With two-thirds of the rich adding to their fortunes over the year, the average net worth of the 400 wealthy jumped to $4.2 billion from $3.8 billion – the highest ever figure, said Forbes.
Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison took the top three spots, with wealth ranging between $40 billion and $70 billion. The fourth spot was shared by brothers Charles and David Koch, owners of family business Koch Industries, who had fortunes of $31 billion each.
Other members of family businesses also placed in the top 10 – individuals from the Walton clan took up the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth positions, with each worth between $26 billion and $28 billion.
Three members of the Mars family, known for the eponymous candy-making company, also shared the 16th place with a fortune of $17 billion each.
But despite Chinese wealthy taking a hit to their fortunes, their future appears bright. A Julius Baer report published this week said the number of super-rich in Asia is set to reach 2.67 million people by 2015. This is up 30% on its estimate made last year.
China is expected to be home to 1.46 million high net worth individuals, added Julius Baer. The total net worth of the rich in Asia is estimated to reach $16.7 trillion in the next three years.