Despite 2016 being a troubled year financially, Switzerland’s super-rich have beaten the odds and become even wealthier. The 300 richest people are now worth CHF613 billion ($604 billion) – with their wealth rising by CHF18.6 billion from last year.
This is far more than the CHF6 billion growth recorded last year, according to Bilanz magazine, which published its annual list of the 300 richest people in Switzerland on Thursday. More than one in five of the individuals or families on the 2016 list have seen their wealth increase, significantly in some cases.
The figures - in a year of low interest rates, volatile markets and political uncertainties - come as a surprise to Dirk Schütz, the editor in chief of Bilanz. “It shows that the Swiss economy is still very energetic,” he told Swiss public broadcaster SRF.
Society benefits too, Schütz added. “Many big firms are still family-run and it’s here that jobs are being created. If the firm does well, so do its employees.”
In 25 of the cases on the list, wealth dropped. Industry has suffered in 2016, especially the watch sector. “This industry had strong losses in turnover which made share prices drop. This is why the wealth of these families dropped,” explained Schütz. For example, the Hayek family of the Swatch Group, which lost CHF1.25 billion in 2015.
Property investments or development account for around a fifth of the total wealth of the 300 richest people. Among those coming into the list for the first time, it is a third.
The sector is considered a safe option, said property expert Donato Sconamiglio. “It doesn’t matter how the markets are, rent is always paid,” he told SRF. However, investors and developments must remember that there is always a risk of property values falling.
No change at the top
There is no change at the top of the list: the Swiss-based Ikea Kamprad family takes first place with an estimated wealth for 2015 of CHF45-46 billion, according to Bilanz. Number two is the Brazilian-Swiss beer baron Jorge Lemann, who owns part of the world’s largest brewer ABInBev. His wealth fell by CHF1 billion to CHF27-28 billion.
Third place is taken by the Hoffmann and Oeri families, the descendants of the founders of the Basel-based pharma giant Roche. They lost CHF2 billion in 2015 due to the changing Roche share price.
Bilanz started its list in 1989, when the 100 richest people were worth CHF66 billion or CHF660 million per person. This average now stands at CHF2.04 billion per person.
The magazine says that one in 18 of 2,473 billionaires worldwide lives in Switzerland. To get into the top ten of the Swiss list you need at least CHF10 billion to your name.
swissinfo.ch and agencies, SRF