Many billionaires have seen their fortunes hit record highs during the pandemic, with top executives from technology and industry earning the most.
According to reports from Swiss bank UBS, the world’s richest saw their wealth climb 27.5% to $10.2trn (£7.9trn) from April to July this year.
This is up from the previous peak of $8.9trn at the end of 2017, and largely due to rising global share prices.
It also said the number of billionaires had hit a new high of 2,189, up from 2,158 in 2017. It comes as the recent World Bank report showed that acute poverty is set to rise this year for the first time in more than two decades due to the pandemic.
Among the billionaires, the biggest winners this year have been industrialists, whose wealth rose by a staggering 44% in the three months leading to July.
According to Swiss Bank UBS, “Industrials benefited disproportionately as market price increased in a significant economic recovery [after lockdowns around the world].”
Other lucky beneficiaries of the pandemic are the Tech billionaires, as their wealth soared by 41%, largely due to the corona-induced demand for their goods and services and social distancing, which accelerated and created the impetus for digital businesses; thereby, compressing several years’ of evolution into a few months.
Healthcare billionaires also benefited as the crisis put drug makers and medical device companies in the spotlight.
Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and Tesla founder Elon Musk – both multi-billionaires – saw their wealth hit new highs this summer, thanks to growth in the price of their companies’ stock.
According to UBS, in the last 11 years, China’s billionaires have increased their wealth by the biggest percentage, climbing 1,146% between 2009 and 2020.
By comparison, over the same period, the wealth of British billionaires has risen by just 168%. But the biggest accumulation of wealth remains in the US, where American billionaires have $3.5trn, compared to China’s $1.7trn.
The UK’s wealthy billionaires have just $205bn, compared to Germany’s $595bn and France’s $443bn.
According to UBS, many billionaires benevolently donated some of their wealth to help with the fight against COVID-19,
“Our research has identified 209 billionaires who have publicly committed a total equivalent to $7.2bn from March to June 2020.
“They have reacted quickly, in a way that’s akin to disaster relief, providing unrestricted grants to allow grantees to decide how best to use funds.”
The UBS report also revealed that the UK billionaires donated less than those from other countries.
In the US, 98 billionaires donated $4.5bn; in China, 12 billionaires gave $679m; and in Australia, just 2 billionaires donated $324m. But in the UK, 9 billionaires donated just $298m.