Millionaires are down but certainly not out

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am


Volatile markets and sovereign debt crises have thinned the ranks of Hong Kong's wealthy, but they are not about to become extinct, with one millionaire in nearly every 13 people.

And of these millionaires, nearly one in five are housewives, Citibank found in a joint survey with the social sciences research centre at the University of Hong Kong.

The millionaires - individuals with liquid assets worth more than HK$1 million, not including property - totalled 527,000 last year, down by 31,000 from 558,000 in 2010.

'The drop was in line with the performance of markets last year,' said Christine Lam, deputy country business manager and head of retail banking in the Citibank global consumer group, referring to volatility caused by fears of an economic slowdown and by the euro-zone crisis.

The Hang Seng Index dropped more than 21 per cent last year.

Retirees, housewives and executives were the top three millionaire 'occupations'. About 21 per cent of millionaires interviewed identified themselves as retirees, 18 per cent were housewives and 18 per cent were executives and managers. Professionals and business owners rounded up the top five occupations.

'Some of these people who identified themselves as housewives could have considered their husband's wealth as their own,' reflecting the total family wealth, Lam said.

Investment and property continued to be top drivers of wealth, although both sectors had less-than-stellar years in 2011. The number of millionaires who made good through investments such as stocks, gold and yuan-related products fell 6 percentage points to 41 per cent. Those who gained wealth via property sales slid 13 percentage points to 16 per cent year on year.

When it comes to the well-heeled, Hong Kong Island is still tops, with one in six residents qualifying as millionaires, compared with one out of 10 in Kowloon and one out of 13 in the New Territories and islands. The survey polled 4,066 people from mid-November to late last month.