The rich stopped getting richer.
The world’s billionaires saw their overall wealth drop last year — the first time that has happened in 15 years, according to the 2019 UBS/PwC Billionaires Report released on Friday.
Billionaires’ wealth fell 4.3% globally, dropping by $388 billion to $8.5 trillion last year. “The billionaire boom of the past five years has now undergone a natural correction,” explained Josef Stadler, the head of ultra high net worth at UBS Global Wealth Management, in a statement. “The stronger dollar, combined with greater uncertainty in equity markets amidst a tough geopolitical environment, has created the conditions for this dip.”
One of the steepest drops came in Greater China, including Hong Kong and the Asia-Pacific region. Private wealth dropped 4% in Hong Kong to $319.8 billion last year, according to the report, which pinned it on the months of anti-government protests that have rocked the Chinese-ruled city. The net worth of China’s richest dropped 12.8%, which took dozens off of the billionaires list.
The Americas bucked the trend, however, largely thanks to tech entrepreneurs, whose wealth rose 3.4% last year to $1.3 trillion. The wealth of billionaires in the Americas inched up 0.1% (good news for the likes of Amazon’s AMZN, -0.29% Jeff Bezos, Microsoft MSFT, +0.40% cofounder Bill Gates and Facebook’s FB, +0.75% Mark Zuckerberg), and the net number of billionaires increased by 4.8% to hit 749 by the end of 2018.
The world’s billionaire population increased overall, in fact, with the report counting 2,101 billionaires globally, or 589 more than five years ago. And that was driven in large part by women, as the report also noted that at the number of female billionaires grew 46% in five years — outpacing the growth rate of male billionaires, which was 39% in the same period.
Despite the dip in overall wealth, the report argued that billionaire businesses continue to thrive. Indeed, China is still producing a new billionaire every two to two-and-a-half days, despite the drop in wealth. The report also noted that the top three personality traits that billionaires share include being determined, being smart risk-takers, and being business-focused, which benefits their businesses.
“Billionaires are creating and steering businesses that consistently outperform equity markets. This business acumen has also translated into their philanthropy, as billionaires seek new ways to engineer far-reaching environmental and social change,” said Stadler. “This ‘Billionaire Effect’ is alive and well across the world – and shows little sign of slowing.”