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Millionaire boom bypasses Switzerland

My friend will pay: there are currently 190,700 dollar millionaires living in Switzerland Keystone

The number of dollar millionaires living in Switzerland has risen once again but by less than half the global average, a financial survey has revealed.

Last year 190,700 millionaires counted their pennies in Switzerland, an increase of 5,200 (2.8 per cent) on 2004, according to the World Wealth Report 2006 compiled by consultants Capgemini and investment bank Merrill Lynch.

But this is noticeably below the European average. As a result of strong growth in Eastern Europe, the total number of millionaires in Europe increased by 4.5 per cent to 2.8 million.

Switzerland’s relatively poor performance was hampered by weaker economic growth and a less impressive export boom than in 2004. The Swiss figures stand in strong contrast with the rest of the world.

The report, published on Tuesday, showed the wealth of what it calls “high net worth individuals” (HNWIs) – people with net financial assets of at least $1 million (SFr1.24 million), excluding their primary residence and consumables – climbed to $33.3 trillion in 2005, an 8.5 per cent increase on 2004.

Globally, the number of HNWIs grew by 6.5 per cent to 8.7 million. What’s more, the number of “ultra-HNWIs” – those with financial assets of more than $30 million – grew by 10.2 per cent to 85,400 in 2005.

A spokesman for Merrill Lynch in Zurich was unable to say how many “ultras” lived in Switzerland.

Global village

For the first time in three years, the HNWI population in the United States failed to exceed the previous year’s gains, growing 6.8 per cent in 2005 compared with 9.9 per cent in 2004.

Despite this slowdown, North America remained home to the largest number of HNWIs and continued to have the largest amount of accumulated HNWI wealth in the world.

“Real GDP [growth domestic product] growth and market capitalisation were the two main drivers of wealth creation, making 2005 a year of robust but decelerating growth for some regions following two consecutive years of strong global performance,” said Robert McCann, vice-chairman and president of Merrill Lynch’s Global Private Client Group.

The HNWI population grew most dramatically in South Korea (up 21.3 per cent), India (19.3 per cent), Russia (17.4 per cent) and South Africa (15.9 per cent).

The report, now in its tenth year, said HNWIs are increasingly showing a preference for international investments and lifestyles, which it expected to intensify as an unprecedented amount of wealth is passed on to a new generation of globally minded investors.

It also found that in addition to investing globally, nearly three out of ten HNWIs are buying homes in different countries.

Having an overseas address is especially popular among investors in the Middle East and Europe, where 80 per cent and 40 per cent respectively of HNWIs own a home in another country.

swissinfo with agencies

The number of dollar millionaires living in Switzerland rose by 2.8% to 190,700 in 2005 compared with 3.2% in 2004, according to the World Wealth Report 2006, by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch.
Worldwide, in 2005 the number of millionaires rose by 6.5% to 8.7 million and the number of ultra-millionaires (over $30 million) grew by 10.2% to 85,400.

Switzerland sets some of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world, attracting multinational companies to set up holdings in cantons such as Zug, Schwyz, Nidwalden and Obwalden.

Last year the European Commission questioned whether tax breaks to entice foreign firms to Switzerland contravened the 1972 Free Trade Agreement. The EC will decide by the end of next month whether to impose penalties on Switzerland.

The Swiss government is coming under increasing pressure from the centre-left Social Democrat Party to scrap tax breaks for around 3,000 wealthy foreigners living in Switzerland. The Party has threatened to take the case to Brussels.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR