Asia now leads number of Billionaires than Europe

The number of millionaires in Asia and the Pacific has jumped sharply to overtake Europe, driven by the fast-rising super-rich population of Hong Kong, a study says.

Millionaires in region became worth more collectively than their counterparts in Europe in 2009, but there are also now more of them, at 3.3 million in the region, against 3.1 million in Europe.

The report on high-net worth individuals - defined as anyone with investable assets of at least $950,300 - was issued by Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management and consultancy firm Capgemini.

"Asia-Pacific's continued strong performance cements the region's strategic importance to every wealth management firm with global aspirations," said Michael Benz, Asia-Pacific head of Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management.

"Now the world's second-biggest HNWI market in terms of population and wealth, it is more pertinent than ever for the wealth management industry to keep enhancing their service to this diverse region."

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The region is now second to North America, with 3.4 million millionaires.

The growth in Asia was led by the number of millionaires in Hong Kong, which grew 33.3 per cent in 2010 to 101,300 people, compared with 76,000 in 2009 - the second straight year in which the city's super-rich population grew the most.

The rocketing number of millionaires in Hong Kong was due to a healthy economy as well as gains in the equities and real estate markets, the report said.

The report also noted the boom of millionaires in India, which came in 12th - its highest ever placing.

Asia, which has emerged quickly from the global recession, has produced some of the world's richest people including India's business tycoon Mukesh Ambani and Hong Kong's Li Ka-shing, nicknamed "Superman" for his business prowess.

Billionaires in the Philippines + 6 new

Meanwhile, a soaring stock market has expanded the Philippines' billionaires' list to a record 11, with the combined wealth of the 40 richest also hitting an all-time high, Forbes.com said.

Shopping mall king Henry Sy, 86, saw his assets surge 44 per cent to $6.8 billion over the past year and remains the Philippines' richest man, the website said in its annual update of the country's wealthiest.

Lucio Tan, 77, tobacco tycoon and former crony of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, kept his spot at number two with $2.65 billion, while budget airline king John Gokongwei, 83, remained third-richest.

Six Filipinos became billionaires for the first time as the paper value of their shares in listed companies soared, boosting their select group's numbers to a record 11.

"The Philippines' economy grew only 4.9 per cent in the first quarter of the year ... off from 8.4 per cent in 2010, but the country's stock market is booming," Forbes said, explaining the surge.

"The stock exchange's composite index is up 27 percent since last year, surpassing its 2007 benchmark."

This also lifted the combined fortunes of the country's 40 richest to an all-time high $32 billion, up from last year's $21.64 billion, the website reported.

Among the six new billionaires are construction magnate David Consunji, 90, and port operator Enrique Razon, at 51 the youngest Filipino with 10-figure assets.

The others are San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo Cojuangco, 76, former finance minister Roberto Ongpin, 74, banker George Ty, 78, and hamburger king Tony Tan Caktiong, 58, of the Jollibee restaurant chain.

The youngest on this year's Filipino richest list was Edgar Sia, a 34-year-old university dropout now worth $80 million after selling his chicken-barbecue restaurant chain to Jollibee.

Forbes said the Filipino rich were also among Asia's most magnanimous.

Lucio Tan sent 700,000 bottles of water to tsunami-hit Japan and his charity foundation has been a big backer of teacher training, medical missions and housing for the poor.

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