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LONDON — Billionaire wealth jumped by more than a quarter during the height of the coronavirus crisis, according to new research, with a rally in stock markets helping the wealth of the world’s richest surpass the $10 trillion mark for the first time.
The “Riding the storm” study, published on Wednesday by Swiss bank UBS and accounting firm PwC, found that global billionaire wealth climbed to $10.2 trillion between April and July this year, up from $8 trillion at the start of April.
That reflected an increase in wealth of 27.5% and exceeded the previous peak of $8.9 trillion recorded at the end of 2017. The number of billionaires worldwide also reached a new high of 2,189, compared to the previous record of 2,158 in 2017.
UBS and PwC said the report covered more than 2,000 billionaires from 43 markets across the world and accounted for around 98% of total billionaire wealth.
Between April 7 and July 31 this year, the report found billionaires across every industry saw their wealth increase by double digits, with those in the industrial, technology and health care sectors recording growth of between 36% and 44%.
It was at this time that many countries around the world moved to impose draconian measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with millions of people losing their jobs and struggling to cope on government schemes.
“Industrials benefited disproportionately as markets priced in a significant economic recovery, while tech companies performed well both due to the corona-induced demand for their goods and services, and markets discounting the value of their future cash flows in a low interest rate environment,” the report said.
A woman wearing protective mask walks past yachts in Monaco harbour, during the first day of partial lifting of restrictions on May 4, 2020, on the 49th day of a lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the novel coronavirus.
VALERY HACHE | AFP via Getty Images
World stock markets have recovered since the start of the pandemic after many governments launched unparalleled stimulus packages to try to offset the impact of the global health crisis.
To date, almost 36 million people have contracted the coronavirus worldwide, with 1.05 million related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The report said a survey of 84 PwC partners who work with billionaire clients found that more than half of those interviewed expected new wealth taxes and increases in direct taxation.
The partners said the billionaire clients “see the magnitude of government support packages and realize that the money to pay for this will have to be raised from somewhere.”
The report did not rank the individual fortunes of the world’s super-rich, but the richest person on the planet remains Jeff Bezos.
The founder and CEO of Amazon has an estimated total net worth of $183 billion, up more than $68 billion year-to-date, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
As of October 7, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates ($123 billion), Tesla CEO Elon Musk ($101 billion), and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ($98.1 billion), followed Bezos on the list of the world’s richest people.
Last year, Oxfam found the world’s 26 richest people were worth more than the poorest half of the global population combined.