Technology magnates such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos have been the biggest winners as the wealth of the world’s billionaires hit a record $10.2 trillion (£7.8 trillion) this year, a new study has found.
The latest Billionaire Insights report from investment bank UBS and accountant PwC said the super-rich had benefited from a V-shaped rebound from the first Covid wave by the end of July, surpassing the previous $8.9 trillion peak reached at the end of 2017.
The remarkable recovery of the billionaire class comes after an extraordinary collapse in global markets that temporarily wiped $565bn from their wealth between March and April. The report revealed that there are now 2,189 billionaires – a slight increase from the 2,158 seen in 2017.
However, fortunes are polarising among the world’s elite as the biggest gains were made among billionaires entrepreneurs in technology, healthcare and industrial sectors – a trend accelerated by the virus.
The UBS figures showed that during 2018 and 2019 and the first seven months of 2020, technology billionaires’ total wealth jumped by 42pc to $1.8 trillion, supported by surging tech shares as white-collar workers across the world depend on tools like Zoom for home working.
A surge in online shopping during lockdowns also boosted the fortune of Bezos – the world’s richest man – as Amazon’s shares soared 65pc this year and added $70bn to the value of his stake.
Billionaires in healthcare also saw their total wealth jump by more than half to $658bn, boosted by drug discoveries and new medical technology, as well as the demand for Covid-19 treatments and equipment across the world.
These two sectors far outstripped the 19.1pc rise seen by the billionaire class as a whole since the beginning of 2018, while industrial firms also performed strongly as markets priced in a V-shaped economic recovery.
Among the laggards were real estate tycoons who saw a smaller 13.1pc rise amid doubts over future demand for offices following the pandemic.
The report noted: “Those that are the innovators and the disruptors, the architects of creative destruction in the economy, are still increasing their wealth. Other billionaires, on the wrong side of economic, technological, societal and environmental trends are becoming less wealthy.”