US billionaires make biggest gains this year

China's tycoons see wealth shrinking for first time in five years, losing $16b

BEIJING • US billionaires were the biggest winners among the world's richest people this year, with four of the five biggest increases on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index belonging to Americans.

However, wealth creation for Chinese billionaires turned negative for the first time since the inception of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index five years ago, with the country's richest losing US$11 billion (S$16 billion) in 2016 amid a stock slump and a 7 per cent decline of the yuan against the US dollar.

In total, the world's wealthiest people ended the year with US$237 billion more than they had at the start, after trumping disappointing economic data from China, the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union and the election of Mr Donald Trump as the new president of the United States.

The gains were led by Mr Warren Buffett, who added US$11.8 billion during the year as his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway saw its airline and bank holdings soar after Mr Trump's surprise victory on Nov 8 ignited a year-end rally.

That pushed his wealth up 19 per cent to US$74.1 billion, allowing him to keep his No. 2 spot.

    • AMONG THE WORLD'S TOP BILLIONAIRE

    • BILL GATES

      Businessman and Microsoft co-founder

      US$91.5b

    • WARREN BUFFETT

      Chairman, CEO and largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway

      US$74.1b

    • AMANCIO ORTEGA

      Founder of the Zara clothing chain

      US$71.2b

    • BERNARD ARNAULT

      France’s head of luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton

      US$38.9b

    • JACK MA

      Alibaba Group Holding founder and Asia’s richest person

      US$33.3b

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates remained the world's richest with US$91.5 billion. Mr Amancio Ortega, founder of the Zara clothing chain, became US$1.7 billion poorer this year to come in as the world's third-richest person with US$71.2 billion.

Next was France's Mr Bernard Arnault, the sole non-American among the top five gainers. The head of luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton added US$7.1 billion to take his fortune to US$38.9 billion.

US oilman Harold Hamm is one of the top gainers, adding US$8.4 billion to more than double his fortune to US$15.3 billion.

Most fortunes outside of the US did not get the same boost from Mr Trump's victory, and were hurt by fluctuating commodities prices and the rise of the greenback, the currency used for the Bloomberg ranking.

Nine of the year's 10 biggest decliners were from outside the US, led by China's second-richest person, Mr Wang Jianlin, who lost US$5.8 billion. He ended the year as the world's 21st-richest person with US$30.6 billion.

Nigeria's Mr Aliko Dangote, Africa's richest, lost US$4.9 billion or one-third of his wealth from falling oil prices and the June devaluation of the naira.

Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al Saud lost US$4.9 billion or 20 per cent of his wealth.

Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma held on to his place as Asia's richest person, closing the year with US$33.3 billion, up US$3.6 billion, after Alibaba's finance affiliate completed a record US$4.5 billion equity fund-raising round.

China has 31 billionaires on the index with US$262 billion, trailing the US, which has 179 billionaires with US$1.9 trillion.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2016, with the headline 'US billionaires make biggest gains this year'. Print Edition | Subscribe