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Emerging markets lag as West's ultra wealthy population jumps: report

A woman exits the Louis Vuitton shop on New Bond Street, renowned for its jewellery and designer retailers, in London August 24, 2009. REUTE
A woman exits the Louis Vuitton shop on New Bond Street, renowned for its jewellery and designer retailers, in London August 24, 2009. REUTE

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The number of ultra wealthy people has risen much faster in the West than in emerging markets during the past year, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Almost 10,000 people in Europe and North America have joined the world's ultra wealthy population - meaning they have at least $30 million in net assets - this year while the number of such individuals in the likes of China and Brazil has fallen.

The findings, compiled by UBS AG and Wealth-X, go against expectations that growth in the wealthy populations of fast-growing economies in Asia and Latin America is outstripping those of "old money" countries like the United States, Great Britain and Switzerland.

China saw a 5.1 percent dip in the number of ultra wealthy people based within its borders while Brazil had a 13.5 percent fall in 2013 compared with last year.

Bankers, however, say the findings don't necessarily mean there isn't a large wealthy population developing in these countries, but are more a sign that rich people in these markets are mainly entrepreneurs still focused on building up their businesses.

"When the domestic economies are doing well they tend to put the money into their businesses rather than in their private banks," said Joseph Poon, head of UBS Wealth Management's Southeast Asian ultra high net worth (UHNW) business.

Taken as a whole, the number of ultra high net worth individuals in Asia rose 5.4 percent to 44,505, still some way behind the United States, which saw an 8.7 percent rise to 65,505.

Looking ahead, the report's authors are forecasting that this year's trend is unlikely to continue and that Asia should have a bigger ultra wealthy population than Europe by 2021 and the United States by 2032.

"We think it's a temporary condition," said Mykolas Rambus, chief executive of Wealth-X.

In total the report found that the number of ultra wealthy people in the world hit 199,235 in 2013, and together they held close to $28 trillion, a rise of $2 trillion on last year.

Men still far surpass women, making up 88 percent of the world's rich elite.

(Reporting by Rachel Armstrong; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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