For the first time, Asia has more billionaires than both North America and Europe.
As Forbes released its annual report on the richest people on Earth, with the U.S. topping the list with 442 billionaires and Asia in second place with 386, the 2013 Global Rich List, published by Hurun Report, a leading magazine on Chinese wealth, suggests that Asia is actually home to 608 billionaires.
According to Hurun, the rankings pan out like this: Asia, with 608 billionaires; North America with 440; and Europe with 320. And while China gains ground on the U.S., China by itself still trails the U.S. with 317 billionaires compared with America's 409.
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Because of the lack of transparency under China’s government, it is very easy for those who do not want their wealth discovered to remain discreet. Not a few of Asia’s richest individuals have obtained their wealth through various illegal means and opt to keep a low profile to avoid drawing attention to their ill-gotten riches. But Hurun has gone even further, suggesting that their report still does not cover all the billionaires in Asia, and which it factors into the report's own margin of error.
“For every billionaire that Hurun Report has found, I estimate we have missed at least two, meaning that today there are probably 4,000 billionaires in the world [instead of the estimated 1,453],” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief reporter of the magazine.
Analysis of Hurun’s list found that most of Asia’s billionaires unsurprisingly operated in the real estate sector, which has been particularly booming in China over the past decade. While China supposedly has the second most billionaires in the world, only one made the top 10 list: 85-year-old Li Ka-Shing, owner of Cheung Kong Holdings, a real estate development company.
The combined wealth of the 1,453 billionaires (Hurun's estimate) amounted to a staggering $5.5 trillion, which is equivalent to China’s GDP.