World's wealthiest get richer by the trillion

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos added the most in 2017, a US$34.2 billion gain that knocked Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates out of his spot as the world's richest person in October.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos added the most in 2017, a US$34.2 billion gain that knocked Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates out of his spot as the world's richest person in October.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos added the most in 2017, a US$34.2 billion gain that knocked Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates out of his spot as the world's richest person in October.
XU JIAYIN, CHINA EVERGRANDE GROUP FOUNDER
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos added the most in 2017, a US$34.2 billion gain that knocked Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates out of his spot as the world's richest person in October.
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CO-FOUNDER.

Stock market boom adds $1.34t to fortunes of 500 billionaires, with Amazon boss topping list

NEW YORK • The richest people on earth became US$1 trillion (S$1.34 trillion) richer this year, more than four times last year's gain, as stock markets shrugged off economic, social and political divisions to reach record highs.

The 23 per cent increase on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world's 500 richest people, compares with an almost 20 per cent increase for both the MSCI World Index and Standard & Poor's 500 Index.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos added the most in 2017, a US$34.2 billion gain that knocked Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates out of his spot as the world's richest person in October.

Mr Gates, 62, had held the spot since May 2013, and has been donating much of his fortune to charity, including a US$4.6 billion pledge he made to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in August.

Mr Bezos, whose net worth topped US$100 billion at the end of last month, currently has a net worth of US$99.6 billion compared with US$91.3 billion for Mr Gates.

Mr George Soros also gave away a substantial part of his fortune, revealing in October that his family office had given US$18 billion to his Open Society Foundations over the past several years, dropping the billionaire investor to No. 195 on the Bloomberg ranking, with a net worth of US$8 billion.

By the end of trading on Tuesday, the 500 billionaires controlled US$5.3 trillion, up from US$4.4 trillion on Dec 27, 2016.

  • JEFF BEZOS, AMAZON.COM FOUNDER

    US$34.2b 
    Amount gained in 2017.

    US$99.6b
    Current net worth.

  • MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CO-FOUNDER

    US$22.6b
    Amount gained in 2017.

  • XU JIAYIN, CHINA EVERGRANDE GROUP FOUNDER

    US$25.9b
    Amount gained in 2017.

"It's part of the second-most robust and second-longest bull market in history," said Mr Mike Ryan, chief investment officer for the Americas at UBS Wealth Management, on Dec 18.

"Of all the guidance we gave people over the course of this year, the most important advice was staying invested."

WINNERS

The 38 Chinese billionaires on the Bloomberg index added US$177 billion this year, a 65 per cent gain that was the biggest of the 49 countries represented.

Mr Xu Jiayin, founder of developer China Evergrande Group, added US$25.9 billion, a 350 per cent jump from last year, and the second-biggest US-dollar gain on the index, after Mr Bezos.

Technology billionaire Ma Huateng, co-founder of messaging service Tencent Holdings, became Asia's second-richest person when his fortune nearly doubled to US$41 billion.

The number of Asian billionaires surpassed the US for the first time, according to a UBS Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers report.

The United States has the largest presence on the index, with 159 billionaires who added US$315 billion, an 18 per cent gain that gives them a collective net worth of US$2 trillion.

Russia's 27 richest people put behind them the economic pain that followed President Vladimir Putin's 2014 annexation of Crimea, adding US$29 billion to US$275 billion, surpassing the collective net worth they had before Western economic sanctions began.

It was also a banner year for tech moguls, with the 57 technology billionaires on the index adding US$262 billion, a 35 per cent increase that was the most of any sector on the ranking.

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg had the fourth-largest US-dollar increase on the index, adding US$22.6 billion, or 45 per cent, and filed plans to sell 18 per cent of his stake in the social media giant as part of his plan to give away the majority of his US$72.6 billion fortune.

In all, the 440 billionaires on the index who added to their fortunes in 2017, gained a combined US$1.05 trillion.

LOSERS

The fortune of French telecommunications billionaire Patrick Drahi fell US$4.1 billion to US$6.3 billion, a 39-per-cent drop.

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the richest person in Saudi Arabia, dropped US$1.9 billion to US$17.8 billion after he was detained in a crackdown against corruption led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that targeted royals, government officials and business leaders.

There were 60 billionaires who fell from the ranking, including South African retailer Christo Wiese, whose fortune dropped to US$1.8 billion from a peak of US$7.7 billion, in August last year, after news of an accounting scandal at his Steinhoff International Holdings NV broke on Dec 5.

In all, the 58 of the 500 billionaires who saw their fortunes shrink this year, lost a combined US$46 billion.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2017, with the headline 'World's wealthiest get richer by the trillion'. Print Edition | Subscribe