• Staff Report


Asia cranked out a new billionaire every three days last year, a study has found.

In all, 113 Asian entrepreneurs attained the status, or more than half of the global total for 2015.

China accounted for 80, while the U.S. added only 5 net new billionaires.

Don’t imagine that the billionaires’ club is widely open: It still has only 1,397 members worldwide.

And it is volatile. Asset transfers, bad investments and falling commodity prices helped to wipe $300 billion from their collective wealth in 2015, to a total of $5.1 trillion. In the Asia-Pacific region, total billionaire wealth declined 6 percent.

“In the past 35 years, a small number of entrepreneurs have created huge wealth — for the economy and themselves. Yet after three transformational decades, this phenomenon is losing momentum,” said the authors of the study, which was released Thursday by investment bank UBS and the PwC consultancy.

It said while China has opportunities for incredible wealth, it also can swipe fortunes fast.

“Billionaire wealth can be fleeting in China. Forty of the country’s tycoons lost billionaire status in the year as asset price volatility and government scrutiny undermined wealth,” the study said.

The survey was first conducted in 2015. That time, it found a rapid increase in the number of female billionaires over two decades.

In Asia, the earlier report said, female billionaires were on average only 53 years old. A little over half were self-made, in some cases hailing from backgrounds marked by poverty.

It said this contrasted with Europe and the U.S., where 93 percent and 81 percent of female billionaires, respectively, inherited their wealth.

The earlier report also warned that history shows billionaires are unlikely to hold onto their status. More than half of those identified in 1994 no longer had the status by 2014.

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