Billionaire wealth smashes records during COVID-19

Lily Canter
·2 mins read
Billionaire wealth is at a record high. Credit: Getty.
Billionaire wealth is at a record high. Credit: Getty.

Global billionaire wealth smashed record levels during COVID-19 breaching the $10tn (£7.7tn) mark for the first time.

Despite an initial dip at the beginning of 2020, speedy market recovery propelled the world's richest entrepreneurs to reach $10.2tn in July, some $1.3tn higher than the previous peak reached at the end of 2017.

The biggest gains were in technology and healthcare, according to the latest report by UBS and PwC which covered more than 2,000 billionaires representing 98% of the cohort's total wealth.

The number of billionaires reached 2,189, up from 2,158 in 2017.

Industrial and tech billionaires surpassed other sectors, with their wealth increasing by 44.4% and 41.3% respectively, whilst real estate, entertainment and financial services lagged begin with rebounds of 13.2% or less.

Billionaire disruptors in technology and healthcare were able to “pull ahead of the pack” via the use of digital innovations.

“This is a key moment in economic history, a time of exceptional, Schumpeterian creative destruction. Scientists, computer programmers and engineers are revolutionising industries at a pace never seen before and they are having a profound impact on the whole of the global economy,” said report authors Josef Stadler and Marcel Tschanz.

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During 2018, 2019 and the first seven months of 2020, four technology billionaires’ total wealth rose by 42.5% to $1.8tn whilst healthcare billionaires’ total wealth increased by 50.3% to $658.6bn, boosted by a new age of drug discovery and innovations in diagnostics and medical technology, along with COVID-19 treatments and equipment.

This compares to just 19.1% increase for the billionaire class as a whole, with traditionalists seeing the smallest growth of 6%.

Billionaire wealth has grown fastest in Asia, with China leading the way. There are now 389 Chinese billionaires with their wealth expanding by almost nine times, compared with twice in the US.

Infographic: UBS and PwC 2020 billionaire wealth report
Infographic: UBS and PwC 2020 billionaire wealth report

Health industry leaders in China are some of the biggest gainers owing to a surge in the country’s drug and medical devices industries accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Former chemistry teacher Zhong Huijhan, founder of Hansoh Pharmaceutical (3692.HK), is now the world’s most wealthy healthcare billionaire.

Meanwhile Chinese engineer Frank Wang has become the world’s first drone billionaire.

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