Asia’s billionaire population will top 1,000 within five years, report projects

Wealth

Asia is already the world’s top region for billionaires. It’s set to extend that lead even more in coming years.

A report released on Wednesday found that the number of billionaires in Asia is set to rise above 1,000 in the next five years. By 2023, the world’s billionaire population is expected to reach 2,696 — with Asia accounting for a third of that figure.

Last year, according to the 2019 Wealth Report by London-based real estate agency and consultancy Knight Frank, Asia had 787 billionaires. That easily exceeded the 452 in Europe and 631 in North America, according to the data.

The report outlined how wealth growth will play out globally over the next five years amid such headwinds as the U.S.China trade war and Brexit.

“Despite a darkening economic outlook, wealth creation will remain a constant in 2019,” Liam Bailey, Knight Frank’s global head of research, said in the report.

Asia, in particular, was highlighted to outperform — even as wealth growth slows globally. Of the 59 countries analyzed by Knight Frank, eight of the top 10 fastest-growing wealthy populations reside in Asian nations.

Countries in the region will see the biggest growth in “ultra-high-net-worth individuals” (UHNWI) — those valued at more than $30 million. India takes the lead with a projected 39 percent growth, followed by the Philippines and China. Romania and Ukraine were the only two non-Asian countries to rank in Knight Frank’s top 10 for the growth of their wealthy populations.

“India and the Philippines, both coming from a lower base — developing markets — (have) huge possibilities for entrepreneurial growth,” Nicholas Holt, Knight Frank’s Asia-Pacific head of research, said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.

“Huge drivers of urbanization, industrialization, et cetera, in some of these markets are going to drive the prospects for wealth creation,” he added.

While a host of factors is spurring the growth of high-net-worth populations around the world, real estate is playing a large factor in Asia, according to Oliver Williams, head of GlobalData WealthInsight, a wealth research firm that provided data for the Knight Frank report.

“Growth in non-financial assets — that is, real estate — is one of the leading factors driving UHNWI growth,” Williams is quoted as saying in the report.

However, the growing cost of real estate has spurred concerns globally about inequality and deepening wealth divides. So, Holt said, finding solutions to the housing affordability gap will remain a key priority for policymakers.

“(The gap is) certainly being addressed by cooling measures, home purchase restrictions in places like China, additional taxes — whether buying, holding or selling — or even stopping foreign buyers in New Zealand,” Holt explained. “This challenge will be a very important one for policymakers in the coming year.”

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