Li Ka-shing, a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur, is crowned Asia's richest man by Bloomberg Millionaire Index. [File photo]
The number of Asian centa-millionaires (people who own more than US$100 million in disposable assets) surpassed that in North America for the first time, as the global economic center continues its eastern shift, according to a report released by Citigroup in partnership with Knight Frank LLP.
By the end of 2011, 18,000 centa-millionaires were from Southeast Asia, China and Japan, compared with about 17,000 in North America and about 14,000 in West Europe, the bank said in its Wealth Report 2012.
Debashish Duttagupta, executive of investment for Asia-Pacific wealth management at Citigroup, said he believed that a wide gap between the rich and the poor exist in China and India, where the centa-millionaires account for a tiny portion of their large populations.
"This is the reason why Asia will possibly maintain as one of the fastest-growing wealth regions in the future," he said.
"The number and concentration of centa-millionaires understates a trajectory in the flow of global wealth," said James Lawson, director of Ledbury Research, a market research firm based in London. "A trend is seen from the wealth map and will very likely reappear in relatively less-wealthy region in the future."
The International Monetary fund in January lowered the forecast for 2012 world economic growth to 3.3 percent. Meanwhile, it said the growth rate of 27 Asian economies will reach 7.3 percent.
The report also predicted that the number of Asian centa-millionaires will rise to 26,000 in 2016, 21,000 for North America and 15,000 for West Europe.
The report said China will overtake the U.S. as the world's largest economy, but will itself be surpassed by India in 2050.
According to a Bloomberg Millionaire Index, Li Ka-shing took a spot in the top 20 rich list with US$24.8 billion in net asset. Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of India's Reliance Industries, trailed him as Asia's second richest man with US$23.6 billion in net worth.
The Citygroup Bank report also found that the shift of wealth has given a boost to investment in arts, wine and sports in Asia, adding that the Asia-Pacific region seems to be the region which should be watched with the most interest in terms of investment enthusiasm.
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