Republic's standing attracts old money, says report

S'pore has one of the highest numbers in Asia of billionaires with inherited wealth last year

Wang Jianlin, China's richest man.
Wang Jianlin, China's richest man. PHOTO: REUTERS

Billionaires from around the world who inherited their wealth prefer to head to Singapore when looking at Asia, a new report says.

About 30 of these so-called multigenerational billionaires, usually from old money, call Singapore home, PwC Singapore's Asia-Pacific leader for entrepreneurial and private clients, Mr Ng Siew Quan, said at a briefing yesterday.

The report, compiled by the consultancy and Swiss bank UBS, noted that Singapore stood out for having one of the highest numbers of multigenerational billionaires in Asia last year. Its "standing as an established international centre" has drawn such super-rich people from everywhere, said the report.

Asia created one new billionaire every three days last year, and of the 210 created, 113 were Asian entrepreneurs. However, billionaire wealth across Asia fell 6 per cent from US$1.6 trillion (S$2.2 trillion) to US$1.5 trillion.

"Far more billionaires lost their billionaire status in Asia than in Europe or the US," the report said.

Mr Gan Seow Ann, divisional vice-chairman at UBS Wealth Management, said one reason could be property values in China tapering off recently. "The huge property boom in China must have created quite a number of billionaires and when prices and asset values reversed, we do see a lot of them moving in and out of the league table.

"Asia, by and large, has a heavy reliance on the real estate business so the boom and bust tends to be more pronounced," he said.

China's super-rich made up 80 of Asia's new billionaire entrepreneurs, with an average age of 53.

This comes of the back of the annual Hurun Rich List released yesterday of China's super-rich. A Reuters report said property magnate Wang Jianlin "has defended his crown as the country's richest man". The Dalian Wanda Group chairman had a personal fortune of US$32.1 billion, beating even Alibaba's Jack Ma.

Besides China, Hong Kong and India had the highest number of new billionaires, with 11 each.

The report used data across 20 years tracking more than 1,400 billionaires from the 14 largest billionaire markets - such as the United States, Germany, China and Singapore - that make up 80 per cent of global billionaire wealth.

As about 85 per cent of Asia's billionaires are first-generation, Mr Ng said a large transfer of wealth to the next generation is set to happen in the next five to 15 years, especially in South-east Asia. "There are practices from European families that Asian families should start adopting, so in the longer term, they can be as well preserved... Succession is not an event, but a procession," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2016, with the headline 'Republic's standing attracts old money, says report'. Print Edition | Subscribe