Billionaire wealth returns to growth

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The world's most wealthy billionaires have increased their fortunes by nearly $8 trillion in the past year.

Last year America had 563 billionaires while Asia had 637, a report by financial services firm UBS and auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers found.

The total wealth controlled by the ultra-rich also shot up to US$6 trillion. "For numerous first generation of entrepreneurs, a major focus is bringing the business to the capital markets, raising funds and M&A".

With people joining the ranks of the fabulously wealthy at a rate near one every other day, the region accounted for 41% of the world's billionaires in dollar terms a year ago. In Asia, the wealth of billionaires added up to to $2 trillion, up from $1.5 trillion in 2015.

The survey estimates that US$2.4 trn of wealth will be transferred over the next two decades, part of which will go to philanthropic causes.

However, American billionaires still have the most billions.

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The report shows that if the current trend continues, the total wealth of Asian billionaires will overtake that of their counterparts in the United States in four years.

The group of billionaires either owns or partly controls companies that employ 27.7 million people, it added.

Stadler said media coverage of inequality and the super-rich suggested there would be an "inflection point", but he said "the perception that billionaires make money for themselves at the expense of the wider population" was incorrect.

Private museums are growing in number and public museums are receiving more funding, increasing the accessibility of art to the public, the report said. They are becoming more engaged in the arts and, increasingly, investing in sports clubs.

"So they can be a billionaire one day, but not the next", he said.

John Mathews, a senior figure within UBS, said: 'The US still leads in the world's largest concentration of billionaire wealth. "Through their own passion for arts and sports, they are playing an increasingly important role in enriching the cultural life of communities".