New York: The number of billionaires in Asia jumped more than 30% last year, with tycoons from India and China leading the charge, according to Forbes magazine’s annual billionaires list.
This year saw 1,125 people around the world making the list, up from 946 last year, representing a total net worth of $4.4 trillion and a dramatic increase from $3.5 trillion in 2007.
Asians accounted for 211 people on the list, up from 160 last year, with India counting 53, up from 36 in 2007, and China, which had just 20 billionaires last year, now boasting 42.
Hong Kong saw five more entrepreneurs make the grade, giving it a total of 26 and meaning that China and Hong Kong, which has a special administrative status under Beijing, lead the Asian list if grouped together.
Japan, which last year lost Asia’s leading spot after 20 years at the top, by contrast counted only 24 tycoons on the list, unchanged from last year and down from 27 in 2006.
“We see some trends that show that (China’s) maybe several years or a decade behind the United States. We have a handful of Internet folks for the first time,” said Forbes’ Senior Editor Luisa Kroll, unveiling the findings.
“A lot of the fortunes in China and Asia in general are in real estate and infrastructure development as the booming economies basically build up to handle all of the growth,” she said.
India placed third in the world for the number of billionaires, trailing the United States, which easily led the rankings with 469 billionaires up from 415 last year, and Russia with 87.
Four Indians figured in the top 10, with steel giant Lakshmi Mittal placed fourth with $45 billion, followed by petrochemicals tycoon Mukesh Ambani with $43 billion and his estranged brother Anil Ambani on $42 billion. Property magnate KP Singh came in eighth on the list, with a fortune estimated at $30 billion.
Hong Kong businessman Li Ka-shing was the top-placed billionaire from eastern Asia, with a fortune of $26.5 billion, while China’s Yang Huiyan was the top placed figure in China.
26 year old Yang inherited her $7.4-billion wealth when her father transferred his shares in the Country Garden Holdings property company he founded into his daughter’s name.
Gautam Adani, an Indian college dropout who made his money building Mundra Port, a private sector port on India’s west coast, was the richest newcomer in Asia with a personal fortune of $9.3 billion.
Elsewhere, Australia counted the most billionaires in the Asia-Pacific region with 14, followed by South Korea with 12 and Malaysia with eight, Taiwan with seven and Indonesia and Singapore with five.