Rest of Asia

$1.9 trillion richer are the richest during Covid-19 pandemic

Issac John /Dubai Filed on December 18, 2020
Reuters file photo

America’s billionaire class of 600 are collectively worth $4 trillion, roughly double the wealth of China’s billionaires.

For the planet’s richest people, the dreary pandemic-hit months have been a period of mind-boggling wealth gains.

Forbes estimates that about 2,200 or so billionaires among planet Earth’s seven billion-strong population have collectively grown $1.9 trillion richer in 2020 with most major stock markets surging to record highs, fuelled by bullish investors.

That brings their total wealth to an incredible $11.4 trillion, jumping 20 per cent from $9.5 trillion on December 31, 2019, despite one of the most severe economic crises in modern history wrought by pandemic-driven lockdowns.

According to new data from Forbes, America’s billionaire class of 600 are collectively worth $4 trillion, roughly double the wealth of China’s billionaires. Altogether, they gained $560 billion since the beginning of the year, aided by record-breaking stock markets. The S&P 500 is up 13 per cent this year despite the March Covid-crash while the Nasdaq is up 38 per cent.

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, had the best year with his fortune leapfrogging by $110 billion to nearly $137 billion, making him the third-richest person in the world. The surge came from skyrocketing shares of Tesla Motors, which have ballooned by 630 per cent.

In comparison, Jeff Bezos, the world’s wealthiest man, gained only $67.5 billion this year, but he still sits atop the list with $182 billion to his name, thanks largely to a unprecedented boost in Amazon stocks caused by people shopping from home en masse.

Luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault (owner of LVMH) also had an amazing year despite severe setbacks faced by his businesses overall. A sharp drop in sales caused by store closings, various lockdowns and the elimination of lucrative tourist dollars spelled trouble early on in the pandemic, but shares of LVMH — which owns brands like Louis Vuitton, Hennessy, Bulgari and Christian Dior — have climbed 30 per cent this year, making Arnault — the world’s second-richest person — $35 billion richer.

However, Chinese billionaires have actually grown collectively the richest this year in dollar terms. The country, which imposed heavy lockdown rules after the Covid-19 outbreak began, has bounced back in stunning fashion from its start as the epicentre of the pandemic.

According to Forbes, the CSI 300 Index, which tracks 300 of China’s leading companies, is up 19 per cent this year — helping Chinese billionaires add a total of $750 billion to their aggregate net worth in 2020. “Altogether, the 400 Chinese billionaires are worth $2 trillion. That doesn’t include the 67 Hong Kong billionaires, whose fortunes skyrocketed a collective $60 billion, to an aggregate of $380 billion.”

Seven Indian billionaires have seen a whopping $64 billion jump in their fortunes in 2020 so far. The combined wealth of these seven billionaires was at $194.39 billion on December 11, after rising a strong 50 per cent so far this year, data compiled from the Bloomberg Billionaire Index showed.

Gautam Adani, chairman of Adani Group, has seen the most wealth growth among all the richest Indians this year. Adani’s wealth has surged by $19.1 billion to $30.4 billion, making him the 40th richest person in the world and the world’s ninth-biggest wealth creator, ahead of Steve Ballmer, Larry Page and Bill Gates.

Asia’s richest man and the chairman of Reliance Industries Mukesh Ambani’s wealth now stands at $75 billion after adding $16.4 billion this year. He is now the 10th richest in the world.

French billionaires notched the third-biggest dollar gains as a group this year. The country’s 40 super rich are worth $500 billion, $95 billion more than a year ago.



Issac John

Editorial Director of Khaleej Times, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Khaleej Times. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.

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