The combined wealth of the world’s billionaires dropped by 7% last year – while the number of billionaires also tumbled by 5.4%.
This is the only setback for the world’s richest families since the financial crisis a decade ago.
Growing market volatility, trade tensions between the US and China and cooling economic growth are cited as the main reasons for the downtick in a new survey from research firm Wealth-X.
San Francisco has most billionaires
The key points from the report are:
- North America is the only place where the billionaire population is rising – while the Asia Pacific, which saw the largest increase in 2018, dropped by13%.
- San Francisco, California, has more billionaires per head of population than any other city, with a billionaire for every 11,600 residents. New York, Dubai and Hong Kong take the rest of the top places.
- Billionaires are congregating in key cities – 15 world cities are home to 30% of the world’s billionaire population.
- The number of billionaires increased in only four of the top 15 countries where the wealthy live – the US, UK, Russia and France.
- A growing number of billionaires enjoy giving their money away, with 4.8% setting up not-for-profit organisations
The report found the world has 2,604 billionaires controlling wealth of $8.562 trillion, split as 707 with $2.228 trillion in the Asia Pacific; 1,005 with $2.795 trillion in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 892 in North America with $3.540 trillion.
“This weaker performance should be placed in context, as it followed a year of unprecedented wealth creation in 2017, when the global billionaire population surged to an all-time high,” said the report.
“The number of billionaires today, and their combined fortunes, remain well above the levels of two years ago. However, there was a loss of momentum in the world economy and asset markets over the second half of 2018, which culminated in sharp falls in equities and investor sentiment.
“Key drivers were the broadening trade war between the US and China, which weighed on demand across Asia, and tightening global liquidity conditions, as major central banks continued a gradual withdrawal from the post-crisis monetary excess.”