Hong Kong flush with US$ millionaires

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 June, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong has more than 74,000 US$ millionaires - and the number is predicted to grow to more than 100,000 by 2009.

A survey covering six major Asia-Pacific cities - commissioned by American Express and carried out by Datamonitor - shows affluence rising rapidly across the region.

It says wealth has grown so fast that last year 5.3 million people in the region held liquid assets of at least US$300,000, a figure 6.2 million people are predicted to reach by 2008.

The survey's findings are based on interviews with affluent consumers and the high-end service providers who cater for them, including private-banking relationship managers, prestige retailers and the concierge staff who cater for Amex's exclusive black-card holders.

The survey covers Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney and Mumbai, and the results are being announced in phases.

Increasingly, the report indicates, the question that the wealthy are asking themselves is: 'How can I be distinctive in a market where affluence is so prevalent?'

Hong Kong's rich and famous, however, have denied there is pressure to stand out from the crowd of emerging millionaires.

According to socialite Kai-bong Chau - known for his pink Rolls-Royce and glamorous outfits - having more rich people around would not affect his spending patterns.

'I am not one of those nouveau riche. There are lots of rich people but taste comes in many levels. It is about education and outlook on life,' he said.

'It's so vulgar to spend money just to stand out. Whether you stand out or not depends on a star quality you are born with. You can't buy it. That's so greedy and reflects bad taste.'

A local billionaire, who wished not to be named, added that most rich people preferred to keep a low profile due to security risks.

'Some people who get rich suddenly want people to know they have money, but most rich people prefer a low profile,' said the businessman, who owns four houses in North America, Europe and Asia.

Saying that there was no need to be pretentious, he added that there were plenty of secret hangouts for wealthy people with low profiles.

'Some of the restaurants we go to are way more expensive than the so-called five-star hotels. People go to The Peninsula to show off. The restaurants I go to look like any other restaurant on the outside,' he said.

'Being rich is nobody's business but my own. I rarely go to balls and such [but] I enjoy life. I spend at least seven figures on leisure every month.'