There's rich, and then there's Hong Kong rich

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2007, 12:00am

It's no secret Hong Kong has more than its fair share of wealthy people - more than 9,000 joined the ranks of its US-dollar millionaires last year - but it is also home to some 1,330 'ultra-millionaires' with net assets of more than US$30 million, a survey shows.

The mainland, with a population 185 times as big as the city's, has 4,900 ultra-millionaires, the annual survey by professional services group Capgemini and investment bank Merrill Lynch found.

Gregory Smith, vice-president for wealth management of Capgemini Australia, said the region had seen a sharp rise in the number of ultra-millionaires. 'This is particularly evident in China, where that country's phenomenal economic growth is reflected in a high concentration of ultra-high-net-worth individuals,' Mr Smith said.

According to the report, the mainland accounted for some 28 per cent of the 17,500 individuals in the region with more than US$30 million.

The mainland also has 340,000 people with net assets of US$1 million or more. In Hong Kong, 87,000, or 14 in every 1,000 people, is a US dollar millionaire - one of the highest concentrations of high-net-worth people - and their average net assets are the highest in the region, at US$5.4 million. The average millionaire in the Asia-Pacific region held US$3.3 million, compared with a global average of US$3.9 million.

The survey defines a US-dollar millionaire as an individual with more than US$1 million in net assets, excluding his or her primary residence and consumables.

The city's 87,000 millionaires held a combined US$460 billion in financial assets at the end of last year, up 12.2 per cent from 2005. They held 34 per cent of their assets in investment properties and 26 per cent in stocks.

The key drivers of wealth in the Asia-Pacific region last year were growth in economic output and stock market returns, the report said. The mainland and India drove the region, with real GDP growth of 10.5 per cent and 8.8 per cent respectively.

Additionally, savings rates, as a percentage of GDP, were higher in the region than in most developed markets. The mainland, Singapore and Hong Kong all had domestic savings rates in excess of 40 per cent.

Stephen Corry, Asia-Pacific investment strategist for Merrill Lynch, said the rise in Hong Kong's wealthy population had been driven by the strong economy and rising stock market.

'Economic conditions in Hong Kong remained buoyant in 2006 on the back of China's continued expansion,' said Mr Corry.

'The twin drivers of higher real estate prices and robust stock market returns fuelled the double-digit increase in the number of high-net-worth individuals in the city.'