More millionaires in Asia-Pacific than Europe

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 June, 2011, 12:00am

The number of wealthy individuals in the Asia-Pacific region has overtaken Europe for the first time - with Hong Kong leading the growth in the number of millionaires.

According to the World Wealth Report 2011, released by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and consultancy firm Capgemini, Asia boasted 3.3 million people in 2010 with a net worth of US$1 million or above, overtaking Europe, which was home to 3.1 million so-called high net worth individuals.

North America is still at the top of the league table with 3.4 million wealthy individuals, but Asia has been tipped to overtake it soon.

'It is entirely conceivable that Asia can overtake North America in the near future,' said Wilson So, a managing director at Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management. 'I would be surprised if it didn't.'

Hong Kong demonstrated the fastest growth rate, with the number of wealthy people soaring 33.3 per cent by the end of 2010 to 101,300 people, compared with 76,000 in 2009 thanks to the strong performance of the real estate and equity markets. The figure surpassed the pre-crisis level at the end of 2007 when Hong Kong was home to 96,000 high net worth individuals.

So expected property prices to remain stable in Hong Kong because of strong macro economic fundamentals, despite government measures designed to tame the market. But he admitted that market sentiment could be affected in the near term.

Hong Kong was followed by Vietnam and Poland in terms of wealth growth. Singapore's wealthy population, which grew 21.3 per cent, ranked ninth, while India was ranked tenth, with its number of millionaires rising 20.8 per cent.

In terms of the concentration of wealth, the US, Japan and Germany were the top three countries, accounting for 53 per cent, or 10.9 million of the global high net worth individual population.

China was in fourth place, with 535,000 high net worth individuals, while India made it into the top 12 for the first time since the report was launched. The report estimated the world's wealthy were worth US$42.7 trillion in 2010. Asia contributed US$10.8 trillion, second to the US' US$11.6 trillion, but ahead of Europe's US$10.2 trillion.

Millionaires continued to show increased appetite for risk, with investment in equities accounting for 33 per cent of their portfolio in 2010, up from 29 per cent in 2009. The percentage is expected to increase to 38 per cent in 2012. The amount of wealth they held in cash decreased to 14 per cent in 2010 from 17 per cent in 2009, and is expected to further drop to 11 per cent in 2012.

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