China Becomes Fourth-Largest Manufacturer (Of Millionaires)

Number Of Dollar Millionaires in China Numbered 477,000 Last Year, A 31% Leap Over 2008

Chinese millionaires typically invest heavily in assets like art, antiques, jewelry and gold (Image: Luxuo)

Chinese millionaires typically invest heavily in assets like art, antiques, jewelry and gold (Image: Luxuo)

The net worth of dollar millionaires in Asia (including India) has surpassed Europe for the first time, according to the annual Merrill Lynch Wealth Management/Capgemini millionaire investor analysis released this week. According to the Financial Times, as of last year there were some three million dollar millionaires in both the Asia-Pacific regions and Europe, with the wealth held in Asia at US$9.7 billion, ahead of $9.5 billion in Europe. While this isn’t much of a surprise, given the relative speed at which countries like China recovered from the global economic crisis and the huge boom we’ve seen in wealth management services being offered in the region, considering this is the first time that Asia has surpassed Europe is noteworthy.

Another statistic that stands out in the new study is 477,000 — the number of dollar millionaires in China as of last year. This puts the country ahead of the 448,100 millionaires in the U.K. and fourth place behind the U.S. (2.87 million), Japan (1.65 million), and Germany (860,000). As Lan Qingxin of the University of International Business and Economics told Shanghai Daily, most Chinese millionaires are minted in six sectors: finance, real estate, information technology, commercial service, manufacturing and energy.

The growing ranks of millionaires in Asia has been good not only for the wealth management industry, but also for the art market and fixed-income investments. From the FT:

Investments by the wealthy in fixed-income instruments crept up to 31 per cent from 29 per cent in 2008 and allocations to equities increased slightly to 29 per cent from 25 per cent in the previous year. Cash holdings, however, fell.

Demand for art, coins, antiques and wines picked up again towards the tail end of last year as the wealthy sought out collectables with “tangible, long-term” value, the study said.

The demand for art, antiques and wine — as well as jewelry — is particularly strong in China, where the number of “super-collectors” is rising in tandem with the country’s overall wealth. One thing to keep in mind with the results of this study, however, is that the number of Chinese millionaires is actually probably something of a low-ball, since, as Hurun Report founder Rupert Hoogewerf noted in the recent Hurun Wealth Report,“there is a great deal of hidden wealth in the Chinese economy, with a significant number of low-key billionaires keeping their heads below the parapet.”