China 'creates two billionaires a week'

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Chinese shoppers walk past a Louis Vuitton storeImage source, AFP

China produced billionaires at the rate of two a week in 2017, says a report by Swiss bank UBS and auditors PwC.

The number of billionaires in the country saw a net increase from 318 to 373, with a joint wealth of $1.12 trillion (£874bn), said the survey.

The report said China was currently the leading country for entrepreneurs to create wealth.

Worldwide, total billionaire wealth rose 19% to a record $8.9tn, shared among 2,158 individuals.

But the report also cautioned that China's billionaires have a high turnover.

It said 106 people became billionaires but 51 dropped off the list, illustrating the risks of doing business in China.

"Over the last decade, Chinese billionaires have created some of the world's largest and most successful companies, raising living standards," said Josef Stadler, head of ultra-high net worth at UBS Global Management.

"But this is just the beginning. China's vast population, technology innovation and productivity growth combined with government support, are providing unprecedented opportunities for individuals not only to build businesses but also to change people's lives for the better."

UBS and PwC said there were already more billionaires in Asia than in the US. On present trends, they would be wealthier than their US counterparts within three years.

There were only 16 Chinese billionaires as recently as 2016, the report said, but now nearly one in five billionaires worldwide was Chinese.

It said 97% of the Chinese billionaires were self-made, many of them in sectors such as technology and retail.

The report said the Americas region was still home to the largest concentration of billionaire wealth, but wealth creation was slowing. In 2017, the US created 53 new billionaires, compared with 87 five years ago.

In western Europe, the number of billionaires went up by 17 to 414 in 2017.