China likely to overtake US as richest country as number of dollar millionaires hits 1m

China at No 2 with 6.7 per cent rise in personal wealth and 4 per cent of global millionaires

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 October, 2013, 11:51am

North America tops the wealth charts this year but is poised to be overtaken by the Asia-Pacific as the number of millionaires in China is expected to grow at a faster pace because of structural reforms, according to Credit Suisse.

Global wealth reached a record high this year, led by rapid growth in North America, where investors benefited from rising property prices and a bull market in equities that drove the Dow Jones Industrial Average to new peaks.

The world's total wealth rose to US$241 trillion this year while wealth per adult stood at US$51,634, the first time the figure has passed the US$50,000 threshold since 2007.

Individuals in the United States had the greatest combined increase in personal wealth, of US$8.1 trillion, in the year to June - 12.1 per cent higher than the previous year.

China came in second with an increase of US$1.4 trillion, or 6.7 per cent, the Swiss bank's latest Global Wealth Report shows.

Fan Cheuk-wan, the firm's Asia-Pacific chief investment officer for private banking and wealth management, said China's structural reforms would help faster wealth creation in the next five years.

"More opportunity will be opened for private sectors and entrepreneurs can create wealth through initial public offerings and other fund-raising activities," Fan said yesterday. "This would be an important source for wealth creation of China in the coming decades."

There are now more than a million high net worth individuals in China with at least US$1 million in assets.

China accounts for 4 per cent of US dollar millionaires worldwide and is likely to overtake Italy, Britain, France and Germany within a decade, the report says, making Asia-Pacific the wealthiest among all regions by 2017.

In Hong Kong, total household wealth grew 8 per cent to US$928 billion, with wealth per adult rising 6.4 per cent to US$153,310, thanks to the stock market rally and strong appreciation of property prices.

Credit Suisse expects wealth to grow slower, factoring in a flattening or a slight drop in real estate prices down the road.

Lagging effects of government measures to restrain property prices and increased supply of flats were the main reasons for the downside risk of property prices in the next one to three years, said Dennis Tan, the firm's Asia economist.

Japan was the only major economy where total household wealth declined, by US$5.8 trillion, or 20 per cent.

The reduction in the wealth pool was partly due to a depreciation in the yen, which weakened 22 per cent against the US dollar over the past year, the report says.