Billionaire Wonderland

Beijing eclipses New York as the world’s billionaire capital

Not only does it share the rude taxi drivers, freezing winters and crowded metro carriages, Beijing now matches New York for billionaires, according to one annual ranking.

With 32 newly minted super-rich in the past year, China’s capital has become the billionaire capital of the world, the latest Hurun Global Rich List says, with a total of 100 to the Big Apple’s 95.

Despite its economic slowdown, more fortunes are being made in China than anywhere else in world, according to the report. The mainland added 74 dollar billionaires in the year to January 16 – more than in either of the previous two years – to make a total of 470.

“We believe the boom in Chinese billionaires mostly happened in June 2015 after the stock market boom,” Rupert Hoogewerf, the creator of the list, explaining that China’s super-rich weathered the subsequent stock market collapse.

Greater China, which includes the mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, ranks above the US as the region with the highest number of billionaires, counting 568, an increase of 90 from last year. The US clocks in with 535 billionaires, two fewer than last year.

Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man

Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda Group, remains Greater China’s richest person with a net worth of $26bn, just $1bn more than Li Ka-shing, the Hong Kong tycoon.

In addition to Beijing, Greater China accounts for four more of the world’s top 10 billionaire cities. Shanghai (50), Shenzhen (46) and Hangzhou (32) have risen up the ranks, while Hong Kong is down seven with 64.

The combined net worth of the Greater Chinese billionaires is $1.4tn, just under an eighth of the region’s combined 2015 gross domestic product.

China’s growing clout in the rankings is even starker in the world of female “self-made” billionaires, according to Hurun, where the country dominates with 93 of the global total of 124.

The report also lists the number of global billionaires of Greater Chinese origin, bringing the total number to 630 – 29 per cent of the worldwide figure of 2,188.

The wealth of the super-rich is notoriously difficult to measure, since their wealth is tied up in a variety of assets such as company shares, most of which fluctuate greatly and are not easily convertible to cash amounts.

Hurun believes the true number of global billionaires is far higher than its numbers suggest because of the difficulties in tracking down hidden and offshore wealth.

“For every billionaire we have found, you can bet your bottom dollar that we have missed at least one if not two,” Mr Hoogewerf has said in the past.

However, Forbes’ list of billionaires only counts 301 in Greater China – fewer than the USA.

Asia’s super-rich now outrank their North American counterparts by almost two to one. However, the total wealth of the 1,022 Asian billionaires, at $2.65tn, is only marginally higher than that of the 584 in North America, at $2.62tn.

The boom in the ranks of Chinese billionaires comes amid growing concerns over the wealth gap in the country. Last month a report from Beijing University found that China has one of the world’s highest levels of income inequality, and that the richest 1 per cent of households own a third of the country’s wealth.

This week’s list from Hurun, a luxury publishing and events group, is its fifth annual ranking of the global super-rich.

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