China May Become Home to Half of Rich in 10 Asian Economies

China to Have Half of Asia’s Millionaires by 2015
A member of the security staff stands near a Bugatti sports car prior to the Shanghai International Circuit Club Challenge in Shanghai. Expansion in the world’s fastest-growing major economy created 502,000 millionaires in the country last year, according to the report. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

China’s millionaires may account for about half of the rich people across 10 major economies in Asia and hold more than half of the wealth by 2015, according to a study by Julius Baer Group and CLSA Asia Pacific Markets.

The millionaires will more than double in number to 2.8 million, with 1.4 million high net worth people in China, according to a report released yesterday that covered China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia. Chinese millionaires will hold $8.76 trillion of the $15.81 trillion that these countries’ rich are expected to have, it said.

“In terms of the overall amounts of wealth that will increase, it’s very much a China story,” Stefan Hofer, emerging market equity strategist at Julius Baer, said yesterday at a press conference held in Hong Kong.

China, the world’s fastest-growing major economy, had 502,000 millionaires last year, according to the report. State and private investments helped drive a 9.5 percent expansion in second-quarter gross domestic product, the government said in July, as growth in industrial output and retail sales accelerated and copper and aluminum production reached records.

Currency Gains

The almost tripling of millionaires’ assets in the 10 nations from $5.6 trillion in 2010 will be also driven by currency appreciation in the region, adding to the economic growth and gains in asset values, according to the report. The currency gains may create 600,000 new high net worth individuals, or people with more than $1 million of investible assets excluding their primary residence, by 2015, it said.

The study assumes nominal GDP growth of 14.5 percent a year for China, combined with a currency appreciation of 5 percent annually in dollar terms.

India will be the second-biggest market among the 10 economies by 2015, with 403,000 millionaires and a combined $2.5 trillion in wealth, said the report, which excludes Japan. South Korea will be ranked third, it said.

Julius Baer wants to expand further in the region, said Thomas Meier, the bank’s chief executive officer for Asia and the Middle East. The Swiss private bank aims to have a fourth of its assets under management in Asia by 2015, he said yesterday. It now has about 10 percent to 20 percent of its 166 billion Swiss francs ($206 billion) in the region.

Emerging Markets

Wealth managers are looking to boost allocations to markets in the Asia-Pacific region in the next 12 months as they expect higher returns, according to a study by Scorpio Partnership Ltd. in July.

Eighty-four percent of investment professionals at wealth management companies are planning to invest more in the region, while 33 percent are considering increasing investments in Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, the study showed. Managers catering to high-net-worth investors are turning to emerging markets and non-traditional asset classes for returns while reducing inflationary risks, the Scorpio study said.

The number of millionaires in China grew by 12 percent to 534,500 last year, according to a report by Capgemini SA and Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management in June. China ranked fourth in terms of the rich population, trailing the U.S., Japan and Germany.

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