World’s richest become wealthier during the pandemic

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, billionaire wealth soared by more than a quarter, according to new analysis, with a boom in stock markets helping the wealth of the world’s wealthiest cross the $10 trillion mark for the first time.

The study “Riding the storm,” published by Swiss bank UBS and accounting firm PwC, found that between April and July this year, global billionaire wealth increased to $10.2 trillion, up from $8 trillion at the beginning of April.

Huge increase

This represented a 27.5 percent rise in wealth and surpassed the previous $8.9 trillion peak reported at the end of 2017. Compared to the previous record of 2,158 in 2017, the number of billionaires worldwide also has hit a new maximum of 2,189.

UBS and PwC said the analysis included more than 2,000 billionaires from 43 markets across the globe and accounted for about 98% of the overall wealth of billionaires.

The report found that billionaires in every industry saw their wealth rise by double digits between April 7 and July 31 this year, with a growth between 36 percent and 44 percent in the industrial, technology and healthcare sectors.

At this time, many countries around the world were implementing stringent steps to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, with millions of people losing their jobs and struggling to cope with government regulations.

“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.

After the beginning of the pandemic, world stock markets have stabilized as several governments introduced massive stimulus programs to attempt to mitigate the effects of the global health crisis.

According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, nearly 36 million people have contracted coronavirus worldwide, with 1.05 million associated deaths till date.

More taxes

The study claimed that a survey of 84 PwC partners working with billionaire clients showed that over half of those interviewed predicted new wealth taxes and direct taxation increases. The partners said the billionaire clients “see the size of government support packages and understand that the money to pay for this will have to be raised from somewhere.”

The study did not rank the individual fortunes of the super-rich in the world, but Jeff Bezos remains the wealthiest person on the planet.

World’s billionaires

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Amazon’s founder and CEO have an estimated total net worth of $183 billion, up more than $68 billion year-to-date.

As of of the latest data, Bezos is followed on the list of the richest people in the world by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates ($123 billion), Tesla CEO Elon Musk ($101 billion), and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ($98.1 billion).

Oxfam, a federation of 20 charitable organizations that focus on reducing poverty, found last year that the world’s 26 richest individuals are worth more than the poorest half of the world’s population combined.