Hong Kong millionaires are a vanishing breed
The ranks of Hong Kong's US dollar millionaires dwindled by 8,000 last year as they took a beating from tumbling property prices and a slumping stock market.
But if the city's wealthy residents are feeling the pinch, their mainland counterparts are cashing in on the robust growth in their economy, according to a report compiled by Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.
The 'World Wealth Report 2003' estimates that there are now about 210,000 millionaires on the mainland.
'The mainland is very strong in terms of growth in wealthy people,' Merrill Lynch's Greater China managing director, Tan Cheong Soon, said.
Mr Tan warned Hong Kong's 35,000 richest residents - known to bankers as high net worth individuals with more than US$1 million in assets - could thin out further if the fall in property prices continued unchecked this year.
'Real estate is still a big part of investment [for people in Hong Kong],' he said. Many wealthy investors lost out as the value of their investment properties slumped an average 12 per cent last year.
The study also attributed the decrease in wealthy people in Hong Kong to a 17 per cent drop in the Hang Seng Index, the main index of local stock movements.
The number of millionaires in Asia-Pacific rose by 4.9 per cent, or 100,000 people, to 1.8 million last year thanks to high savings and strong economies. Their combined net worth rose by 10.7 per cent, or US$400 billion, to US$5.7 trillion.