For the first time since the global financial crisis, the world’s billionaire population declined in 2016, falling by 3.1% to 2,397 individuals, according to a new report by Wealth-X, a global wealth information and insight business.
Billionaires’ combined wealth also receded, dropping by 3.7% to $7.4 trillion. The report noted, however, that the number of billionaires and total wealth were still higher than their 2014 levels.
Following a record-high number of billionaires and combined assets in 2015 — 2,473 individuals with $7.7 trillion in assets — last year’s decline occurred against a backdrop of heightened geopolitical instability and still subdued trends in the global commodity, financial and consumer markets, according to the report.
The uncertain outlook for billionaire wealth creation will continue in 2017 amid dramatic shifts in the geopolitical environment, the report said.
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In June, Wealth-X reported an increase in the world’s population of ultra-wealthy people (those with $30 million or more in assets).
The new report pyramids the billionaire population on six layers. The base comprises 1,226 individuals with assets between $1 billion and $2 billion and combined wealth of $1.6 trillion. Five individuals sit at the top of the pyramid, each with $50 billion or more in assets, and a total of $316 billion.
The Asia/Pacific region recorded the biggest drop in its billionaire population and total wealth in 2016, down 6.8% and 6.3%.
Europe, the Middle East and Africa remained the region with the largest number of billionaires, but also experienced declines on an annual basis, 4.5% in population and 6.8% in total wealth.
Only the Americas recorded an increase in billionaire population and wealth, up 2% and 0.8%.
The U.S. strengthened its position at the top of the 30 largest billionaire countries, up 6% to 620, and was the only one of the nine largest ones to report a rise in either its billionaire population or wealth in 2016. Second-place China’s billionaire population fell by 4.2% to 249.