1. United States
The U.S. has more ultra-rich residents than any other country in the world, and accounts for nearly a third of the ultra-high net worth population, with more than 65,000 at last count. For comparison: China, Germany, India, Japan and the United Kingdom together have less than 62,000 ultra-high net worth residents. New York City is home to more than 8,000 ultra-wealthy residents, far more than any city in Europe. Los Angeles and San Francisco each fall slightly short of 5,000. The combined wealth of America’s ultra-high net worth residents was more than $9 trillion.
Germany added more than 2,000 ultra-high net worth individuals in the past year. Additionally, four of the 10 cities with the highest populations of extremely wealthy individuals are in Germany. Despite a recent decline in exports, the country still remains a major exporter and continues to run a large trade surplus. However, the country narrowly avoided falling into a recession in 2012, and GDP growth is expected to be slow through 2013. While women make up just 6% of the nation’s ultra-high net worth individuals, they account for 15% of all wealth held by the ultra-wealthy. Germany’s richest woman, Susanne Klatten, is worth $14.3 billion, according to Forbes’ billionaires listing.
After a long recession, economic growth may be on the horizon for Japan. Alongside the potential return to growth and a surging stock market, the number of ultra-wealthy individuals in Japan jumped by 11.2%. The cumulative wealth of such individuals also rose 12.5%, versus an increase of 5.4% for Asia (excluding the Middle East). However, Japan faces considerable uncertainty going forward, especially regarding the country’s aggressive plans to spur economic growth through inflation — called “Abenomics” — and a planned nationwide sales tax hike. Japan also faces a massive debt burden, totaling an estimated 238% of GDP as of 2012, according to the IMF
4. United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has just more than 10,910 ultra-high net worth individuals, of whom 6,360 live in London, the European city with the most ultra-wealthy individuals. The U.K. GDP rose only slightly in 2012. In better news for the economy, Wealth-X notes that Chancellor George Osborne’s “Help-to-Buy” program, which offers government loans to home buyers, has pushed up home prices, which has benefited the country’s wealthy population. Additionally, the United Kingdom’s benchmark stock index, the FTSE 100, is currently close to all-time highs and has risen 13.7% in the past year. There are an estimated 135 billionaires in the United Kingdom
The number of ultra-wealthy Chinese residents fell by 5% between 2012 and 2013. This coincided with large declines in the number of ultra-high net worth residents in several of China’s large cities. The country’s economic growth has slowed recently, and it is projected to continue down that path. China is now under new leadership, however, and President Xi Jinping has pledged to rebalance the Chinese economy by increasing consumer spending. A 2012 Bloomberg News series, “Revolution to Riches,” noted that many of China’s very wealthy citizens and leaders, including Xi Jinping, are “princelings,” or well-connected relatives of past leaders in China’s communist party.
The number of high net worth individuals in India rose slightly between 2012 and 2013, from 7,730 to 7,850. However the Indian economy has struggled over the past year with rising food prices and the declining value of the rupee, which has fallen almost 13% relative to the dollar in the past 12 months. The nation also has experienced slowing growth. However, Wealth-X praised the country’s leadership for being more-welcoming of foreign investment and also cutting red-tape for businesses.
Despite being a fairly small country, Switzerland has an estimated 6,330 ultra-high net worth individuals — up roughly 13% from the year before. According to Wealth-X, this works out to 7.9 of every 10,000 Swiss residents. Switzerland’s economy remains fairly strong considering the eurozone crisis. The country, one of the world’s major financial hubs, also has been forced to alter banking laws to prevent tax evasion. Currently, 14 institutions are under investigation for purportedly helping Americans evade taxes via Swiss bank accounts.
Canada’s ultra-high net worth population declined slightly in 2013, falling below 5,000. Women were extremely underrepresented in this group, accounting for just 5%. But wealth in Canada was not solely concentrated among the ultra-wealthy; the nation had a per capita GDP of $42,734 in 2012, 10th highest in the world. This was still well behind the U.S.’s $49,922 per capita. Canada has 37 billionaires, including the prominent Thomson family. According to Canadian Business, the family’s holdings include massive stakes in Thomson-Reuters, the National Hockey League’s Winnipeg Jets, and The Globe and Mail — a Toronto-based newspaper.
France’s ultra-high net worth population jumped from 4,100 in 2012 to just under 4,500 this year. Meanwhile, the combined wealth of this group climbed from $475 billion to $525 billion. According to Wealth-X, Paris had 3,200 ultra-high net worth residents, more than any city in Europe except London. President Francois Hollande has been a proponent of high income taxes for the extremely wealthy. He previously proposed a 75% tax rate on personal income for the extremely wealthy, which would be by far the highest such rate in Europe. But after this tax was rejected by business leaders and in court, Hollande instead proposed taxing the companies paying such salaries.
Brazil has more than 4,000 ultra-high net worth individuals, the most of any country in Latin America. However this number is down 13.5% from the year before, when there were more than 4,600. Brazil was also home to the single largest loss of personal wealth in the past year: Eike Batista, owner of the fast-failing holding company EBX, lost more than $20 billion. The country has suffered from currency depreciation in recent months, which has made imports more expensive and heightened concerns about inflation. In the past year, the real has fallen by roughly 11% versus the dollar. In addition to a record trade deficit and low GDP growth, Brazil has also experienced a recent wave of anti-government protests.
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