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Millionaires on the rise in Switzerland

The Swiss tend to be discreet about their wealth

(swissinfo.ch)

The number of dollar millionaires in Switzerland grew by six per cent to 175,000 last year.

Worldwide, the total number of millionaires grew more slowly by 2.1 per cent to 7.3 million.

The global rise in people making the elite list was the lowest for seven years, according to "The World Wealth Report", compiled by the United States investment bank, Merrill Lynch, and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, the financial consultants.

Switzerland was home last year to no less than 7.6 per cent of Europe's millionaires, despite its overall population making up only one per cent of the continent's population.

Switzerland managed its above-average rise in millionaires despite a national economic downturn in 2002.

However, the report did not reveal how Switzerland managed to produce more rich than the rest of its European neighbours.

Global picture

According to the report, the total wealth of the world's 7.3 million millionaires now rings in at SFr35 trillion ($27 trillion).

Although the growth in the number of millionaires had visibly slowed over 2002, Andreas Mentel, from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, said he was surprised there had been any growth at all.

"It's a surprise, especially if one considers the market situations last year," Mentel told swissinfo.

"But on the other hand, you can see that the high net worth individuals were early adapters and moved out of the volatile and decreasing equity market rather quickly."

In terms of the "super rich", the number of people with more than $30 million grew by two per cent to 58,000 people.

Two-thirds of the world's millionaires are based in either the United States or Europe.

Asia saw the biggest rise in millionaires, with a 10.6 per cent increase on 2001. Europe had the second-largest rise, with 4.6 per cent.

This was thanks largely to growing numbers of eastern Europeans joining the ranks of the rich. The number of millionaires in the United States actually dropped by 2.1 per cent.

Cautious spending

The report attributed the slower global rise in millionaires to the stock market downturn and sluggish economic growth.

Faced with uncertain markets, people have been reticent to risk capital and have instead chosen alternative areas of investment, such as property.

"The overall position last year hasn't been to achieve a higher rate of return but rather to stabilise and keep wealth," Mentel said.

Looking ahead, the report predicted the average yearly growth in the number of millionaires worldwide to reach seven per cent over the next five years.

It forecast that by 2007 their total fortunes would reach almost SFr50 trillion ($38 trillion).

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The growth in the number of dollar millionaires worldwide - at 2.1 per cent - was the slowest in seven years.

Switzerland has 7.6 per cent of Europe's millionaires, despite making up only one per cent of the population.

The total wealth of the world's 7.3 million millionaires rings in at SFr35 trillion ($27 trillion).

Two-thirds of the world's millionaires are based in either the United States or Europe.

Asia saw the biggest rise in millionaires, with a 10.6 per cent increase on 2001.

The report refers to dollar millionaires as "high net worth individuals" or "HNWIs".

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