China has more billionaires than US now

China edged out America on several fronts in a new report profiling the world’s wealthiest people.

Beijing pushed New York into second place – 100 to 95 – when it took over this year’s “Billionaire Capital of the World” title.

Shanghai-based firm Hurun conducts the yearly research and rankings of the world’s wealthiest people and their spending lifestyle.

China now has the most billionaires despite the country’s economic slowdown, stock market plunge and crackdown on corruption, according to a China-based wealth research firm.

The Hurun Report said China now has 568 billionaires versus the United States’ 535, giving it the largest population of billionaires in the world.

According to Hurun, China’s billionaire population first surpassed the U.S. in August, and grew by a total of 90 last year.

Granted Hurun’s numbers are subject to some debate, as they differ from those of Forbes and other wealth research firms, which still put the U.S. far ahead of China when it comes to billionaires. According to Forbes’ 2015 China report, China has 335 billionaires compared with 536 in the U.S.

Worldwide, Hurun said there are now 2,188 billionaires, up 99 from 2014 and marking a new record. Yet it said billionaire growth globally is slowing along with the economy. The total wealth of the world’s billionaires grew 9 percent in 2015 to $7.3 trillion — more than the combined GDPs of Germany and the U.K.

For the first time, Beijing has also passed New York as the billionaire capital of the world, 100 to 95, Hurun said.

The report, which compiles data each year on where the world’s wealthiest individuals live, estimates 100 billionaires now live in Beijing, while 95 reside in New York City. Moscow, the next closest city on the list, is home to only 66 people with a net worth of at least $1 billion. Nearly 2,200 billionaires from 68 countries were profiled across the globe.

“Despite its own slowdown and falling stock markets, China minted more new billionaires than any other country in the world last year,” Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher at the Hurun Report, said in a statement.

China’s billionaires are collectively worth about $1.4 trillion – a sum larger than the gross domestic product of major world economies like Spain, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Just two years ago, Chinese billionaires were worth about 31 percent less and were 210 fewer in number, and Beijing ranked fourth on the list of most popular billionaire cities, behind New York, Moscow and Hong Kong.

 Most Popular Cities for Billionaires:
  1. Beijing (China), 100
  2. New York (U.S.), 95
  3. Moscow (Russia), 66
  4. Hong Kong (China), 64
  5. Shanghai (China), 50
  6. London (U.K.), 50
  7. Shenzhen (China), 46
  8. Mumbai (India), 45
  9. Hangzhou (China), 32
  10. Paris (France), 30

Bill Gates, 60, retains the Number 1 spot with a fortune of US$80bn. Gates becomes the first person alive today to have created a US$100bn fortune, having given away more than US$20bn to date.

Warren Buffett, 85, saw his wealth decrease by US$8bn or 11%, US$2.2bn of which was a donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Buffett has recently been buying into oil refiner Phillips 66. Interestingly, 99 percent of his wealth was earned after his 50th birthday.

Amancio Ortega, 79, is back in the top 3 this year. Inditex, the mother ship of Zara, closed January with its share price close to historic highs. Daughter Sandra Ortega Mera also makes the list with US$5.5bn, inherited from her mother.

Jeff Bezos, 52, shot into the Top 10 for the first time with a US$24bn or 83% increase in wealth to fourth spot with US$53bn on the back of a surge in Amazon shares. Together with Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla fame (US$8.8bn, up 38% to 134th place), Bezos has been making headlines for his space project: at the end of last year Bezos successfully launched and returned a booster and capsule from a suborbital flight. Bezos in 2013 purchased the Washington Post.

Carlos Slim Helu, 76, dropped out of Top 3 after losing 40% or US$33bn of his fortune, mainly on the back of big drops in America Movil and Mineras Fresco. The Mexican billionaire has built a museum in Mexico City to house his US$100 million collection of art.

Larry Ellison, 71, with US$47bn, saw his wealth drop by 15%, on the back of a reduction in Oracle’s stock price. Ellison has donated US$4m to the presidential campaign of Marco Rubio.

Mark Zuckerberg, at 31, the youngest member of the Top 10, has had a good year, seeing his wealth rise US$3bn to US$47bn. Zuckerberg made world headlines in December when he announced that he would donate 99% of his Facebook stock to a charity set up with wife Priscilla Chan.

Charles, 80, and David Koch, 75, retain their Top 10 spots on the back of a combined US$16bn increase in their wealth. Charles Koch is an important donor to the Republican presidential campaign.

With a net worth of US$37bn, Michael Bloomberg, 73, shot into the top 10 for the first time on the back of a rise in sales at his media group. Bloomberg is reported to be toying with the idea of running for President as an independent. He has donated US$1bn to John Hopkins University.

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

Tribune International