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World's billionaires add to their wealth in latest census

Their combined wealth increased 5.4% to a record $US7.7 trillion. With special feature audio.

Nevil Gibson
Tue, 09 Aug 2016

The world’s billionaires are doing better than ever.

Their combined wealth, defined as individuals with a net worth of $US1 billion or above, increased 5.4% to a record $US7.7 trillion, according to Wealth-X’s 2015-2016 billionaire census. By comparison, the gross domestic product of the US is around $17 trillion.

Their numbers also increased by 6.4% to 2473 in 2015.

Wealth-X is a consulting group that uses public records and research staff to manually track the habits of ultra-high-net-worth individuals, or people valued at more than $30 million.

Billionaires controlled 3.9% of the world’s total household wealth in 2015, slightly down from 4% in 2014.

“Wealth helps accumulate more wealth,” says David Barks, associate director of custom research for Wealth-X.

Europe, the Middle East and Africa are still the regional group with the most billionaires (1013) while the Americas come in second with 782 billionaires.

The Asia-Pacific region is poised to take over the Americas, Mr Barks says. With 678 billionaires, Asia-Pacific produced four times more billionaires than the Americas during 2015.

But, the Americas did overtake Europe, the Middle East and Africa in total billionaire wealth, clocking in at $US3 trillion.

As baby boomers transfer their wealth to the younger generation, more heirs are becoming billionaires and adding to the ranks. Billionaires with partially inherited wealth continue to be the fastest-growing segment of this population, up 29.9% year-on-year.

For most billionaires, however, it takes more than an inheritance; 87% of billionaires, up from 81% in 2014, made the majority of their fortunes themselves.

As the ranks of billionaires grow so, too, does the desire to give back. Philanthropy was the primary passion among global billionaires, as it was in 2014, the census found. More than 56% of total billionaires either undertake or are interested in pursuing philanthropic activities.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Giving Pledge – also backed by Warren Buffett – have instilled a sense of humanitarian responsibility in billionaires to use their vast wealth to make a difference in the world, Wealth X says.

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Nevil Gibson
Tue, 09 Aug 2016
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World's billionaires add to their wealth in latest census