Moneyed passion for art grows as property cools

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 April, 2013, 5:24am

Mainland millionaires are increasingly seeking out art, fine wine and watches for investment as the property sector shows signs of cooling and stock prices refuse to pick up.

About 56 per cent of mainland millionaires in US dollar terms parked part of their wealth in so-called passion investments, according to a report published by the Hurun Research Institute and Industrial Bank.

"The understanding of fortune has changed dramatically in the past decade," said Rupert Hoogewerf, the chairman and chief researcher of the institute. "The rich Chinese are now taking a global view in dealing with their fortunes and assets."

The report defines passion investments as art, fine wine, jewellery, jade and watches.

It said the number of millionaires on the mainland increased 4 per cent last year to 2.8 million, growing at the slowest pace in four years due to the economic slowdown and increasing concentration of wealth.

Based on a survey of 1,219 mainland millionaires, the report said 76 per cent invested in properties while 65 per cent owned stocks. Both the percentages of property and stock investments hit the lowest in four years.

Millionaires, mostly private entrepreneurs or high salary earners, have in the past invested heavily in property and stocks to combat inflation and beat the paltry interest rates offered by mainland banks.

But the central government's measures to cool the property sector and the prolonged bear run of the mainland's stock market have prompted high-net-worth individuals to seek alternative investments.

The report showed 76 per cent of the millionaires saw asset growth as the purpose of such investments while only 12 per cent said they did it for personal interest. The rest said they turned to alternative investments to prevent asset erosion amid inflation.

The increasing affluence in mainland China has had far-reaching effects, with buyers from the country emerging as the biggest spenders in the global art and luxury markets.

Shoppers from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau accounted for a quarter of global luxury sales last year, according to global consultancy Bain & Company.

The value of the art auctioned in China in 2011 accounted for 42 per cent of the world's total that year, according to research firm Artprice.

Global auction house Christie's recently revved up its mainland expansion, saying it planned to hold an auction this summer in Shanghai after receiving a licence to open a wholly owned subsidiary in the city.

The number of the so-called super-rich on the mainland, with net worth of no less than 100 million yuan (HK$124.1 million), rose 2 per cent to 65,400 last year, the report said.