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Top 1% Billionaires’ club shrinks as economy wobbles

Woman wearing gold watch

The world's billionaires had a tough time of it last year.

(© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)

The world lost 57 billionaires last year as economic woes and the unexpected strengthening of the US dollar wiped $388 billion (CHF386 billion) from their combined wealth. Switzerland had three fewer billionaires; the 33 who remain saw their bank accounts shrink by $16 billion.

The latest edition of the Billionaires Reportexternal link from Swiss wealth manager UBS and consultants PwC made for grim reading for the top 1% of wealthy individuals around the world. Last year saw the biggest falls in their riches since the 2008 financial crisis and the first drop in their riches in three years.

In China, 48 people became mere multi-millionaires, with 22 US citizens and 13 Indians suffering the same fate.

This left a total of 2,101 billionaires dotted around the world, which is still an increase of 589 since 2013. They control a combined wealth of $8.5 trillion.

The growth rate of women reaching the higher echelons of wealth in the past five years (46% increase) outstripped men (39%). There were 233 female billionaires by the end of last year compared with 160 in 2013. 

Swiss wealth

Despite losing three billionaires last year, Switzerland remains the wealthiest country in the world per head of population.

A separate study earlier this year by Credit Suisse bank stated that the amount of assets per adult in Switzerland stood at $564,650 (CHF555,000), an increase of $17,790 over the previous year.

But this wealth is not distributed evenly. An estimated 2,200 individuals are in the ultra-high net worth group, with wealth of over $50 million and 770 have net worth exceeding $100 million.

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