FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2018, file photo, Jack Ma, center, chairman of Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba Group, stands during a conference to commemorate the 40th anniversary of China's Reform and Opening Up policy at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. A rich list by wealth compiler Hurun Report shows the market meltdowns in 2018 obliterated $1 trillion in wealth, with more than 212 of China's richest individuals losing their dollar billionaire status. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

Billionaire list shows $1T hit from '18 market meltdown

February 27, 2019 - 2:28 am

BANGKOK (AP) — The stock market meltdowns in 2018 obliterated $1 trillion of the fortunes of the world's richest individuals, with more than 212 Chinese tycoons losing their dollar billionaire status, according to a list by wealth compiler Hurun Report.

The report, China's version of the Forbes rich list, showed Chinese billionaires still outnumbered those from any other country as of Jan. 31, at 658. Several newly minted ones amassed wealth through big share offerings. The U.S. had 584 billionaires.

Beijing was the city with the most billionaires, at 103, followed by New York at 92 and Hong Kong with 69.

But while Chinese and other Asians are steadily gaining in wealth, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos led the world's wealthiest for the second year running, with wealth estimated by the Hurun Global rich list at $147 billion. Bill Gates ranked second with $96 billion and Warren Buffett was third with $88 billion. The wealthiest Chinese was Alibaba's founder Jack Ma, with $39 billion.

Gates' fortune rose $6 billion in 2018, said Hurun Report CEO Rupert Hoogewerf, despite his enthusiasm for philanthropy.

The only Asian among the top 10 richest in the world was India's Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, with wealth estimated at $54 billion.

Overall, the report says there are 2,470 billionaires in the world by its reckoning, down 224 from last year. Their total overall wealth fell by $950 billion from the year before to $9.6 trillion thanks to stock market gyrations and a strong U.S. dollar, it said.

The market meltdowns took the biggest toll on Japan, where the Tokyo Stock Exchange lost 43 percent of its value in market capitalization. But even Shanghai's exchange lost nearly a quarter of its value and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index plunged almost 16 percent.

Hurun released the report in partnership with a Chinese luxury property developer, Loong Palace.

Hoogewerf said he believes the world's billionaires may number over 6,000 people, since many seek to hide the extent of their wealth, especially in the Middle East.

"While some go to extraordinary lengths to conceal their wealth, for the most part billionaires just prefer to be discreet, to prevent competitors muscling in on a good business or to protect their families," he said in a statement.

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