Sunday, March 11, 2012

Asia’s Billionaires – Forbes 2012

Forbes magazine’s popular list of the world’s billionaires has been released. The summary numbers for Asia (ex-Japan and ex-Australia / NZ) are as follows:

- The region has 267 entries, or 22% of the world’s 1,226 names;
- Geographically, the names are distributed as follows:

- Hong Kong’s Li Ka Shing again takes the top prize, posting a net worth of $US25.5 billion, ranking ninth globally. No wonder the locals call him “Superman”.

- Two Indian industrialists – Mukesh Ambani and Lakshmi Mittal – are nipping at his well-heeled heels with $22.3 billion and $20.7 billion, respectively.

Not surprisingly, China and India lead the Asian pack, given the size of each market. What is noteworthy is that Hong Kong, with a population of only 7.2 million, ranks third, with a surprising 38 billionaires. Further research reveals that 16 of the 38 names (a whopping 42%), including the top 4, made their money predominantly from Real Estate. This proportion is higher than any other country in Asia, and may rank as the highest in the world. On the one hand, it is clear to anyone who knows Hong Kong why so much wealth has come from property – the territory is a cramped, mountainous place on the doorstep of China with a tight land development policy and a low tax structure. The combination has led to the most expensive property market in the world. However, it is a sad commentary on Hong Kong that, rather than building world-beating businesses, brands and technologies like so much of the rest of Asia, its business (and political) leaders have focused so much on enriching themselves by providing housing for its own people, too often in cramped and seriously expensive dwellings.