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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
World's wealthy total at new peak
Bottles of champagne
More than $30 trillion can buy an awful lot of champagne
The world's wealthiest continue to grow richer, with research showing that there are now nearly nine million millionaires around the world.

About 8.7 million people held $1m in assets in 2005, 6.5% up on 2004, according to investment bank Merrill Lynch and consultants Capgemini.

Between them, global millionaires owned $33.3 trillion (18tn) in net assets.

South Korea saw the biggest rise in millionaires last year, with their ranks swelling by 21%.

In contrast, the number of new US millionaires slowed as high oil prices and rising interest rates hit stock market returns.

GROWTH IN DOLLAR MILLIONAIRES (2004-5)
South Korea: 21%
India: 19%
Russia: 17%
South Africa: 16%
Indonesia: 14%
Hong Kong: 14%
Saudi Arabia: 13%
Source: 10th World Wealth Report

According to Merrill Lynch's 10th annual World Wealth Report - produced in association with Capgemini - the combined assets of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) grew 8.5% in 2005.

The global 'millionaires club' is now larger than the entire population of Switzerland and is fast approachig that of Sweden, where 8.9 million people live.

It estimates that more than 85,000 people now have assets - excluding primary residence and consumables - of more than $30m.

Exclusive club

Membership of this most exclusive club of multimillionaires - dubbed ultra-high net worth individuals - increased by 10% last year.

Merrill Lynch said Asia's continued economic recovery helped boost the riches of the region's wealthiest, while oil and gas exports swelled the fortunes of the richest few in Latin America and the Middle East.

On the other hand, the rate of growth of US millionaires slowed to 6.8% in 2005, down from the 10% jump seen in 2004.

DOLLAR MILLIONAIRES BY REGION (2005)
North America: 2.9 million
Europe: 2.8m
Asia-Pacific: 2.4m
Latin America: 300,000
Middle East: 300,000
Africa: 100,000
Source: 10th World Wealth Report

"Market returns and economic indicators signalled that the creation of wealth was slowing somewhat in many regions of the world - most notably, North America - but HNWIs were still able to benefit from pockets of high performance," said Robert McCann, president of Merill Lynch's Global Private Client Group.

Besides South Korea, India and Russia saw the largest rise in new millionaires - their numbers growing by 19% and 17% respectively.

South Africa, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Brazil also saw double-digit growth in the number of new millionaires.

Merill Lynch said the combined wealth of the world's wealthiest would not rise as fast in 2006, owing to the slowdown in the global economy.

However, it believes the total fortunes of global millionaires will still top $44 trillion by 2010.


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