HK's rich the wealthiest among regional seven

Updated: 2010-07-14 07:21

By Li Tao(HK Edition)

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The rich in Hong Kong are the most affluent among their peers in the region and are also the oldest and least likely to have a baby, according to a survey by HSBC.

The HSBC Affluent Asian Tracker survey, after face-to-face interviews with more than 2,000 affluent people aged 18 to 65 years in seven Asian markets, says that Hong Kong's most affluent 10 percent have liquid assets of $301,289 on average - assets that exclude real estate and income, e.g., stocks and bonds, 58 percent more than the richest on the mainland ($126,537), and nearly double a Singaporean's $183,145.

The majority of Hong Kong's rich were able to capitalize on the local equity market's bull run earlier this year, Bruno Lee, HSBC's head of wealth management for Asia-Pacific, told a press briefing Tuesday.

He said the wealthiest in Hong Kong have kept one third of their liquid assets in equities - also the highest ratio in the region.

"Almost a quarter of local rich people also hold yuan-denominated investments," said Lee, who attributed it to the steady performance of the mainland economy during the recent global economic downturns as well as to anticipation of yuan appreciation.

Although the survey finds that Hong Kong's wealthiest people tend to be older - 48 years old in comparison with 44 in Singapore and only 36 on the mainland - on average, a third of Hong Kong affluent surveyed said they belong to the "double income with no kids" (DINKS) group, compared with 18 percent and 8 percent among Singaporean and mainland respondents, respectively.

The HSBC Affluent Asian Tracker survey studies only the top 10 percent richest population in seven Asian markets, excluding Japan and South Korea. The threshold for Hong Kong families is possession of over $128,500 (HK$1 million) in liquid assets and for mainland households $73,500 (500,000 yuan).

"Asia's young and upwardly mobile working population is fast accumulating wealth to become this generation's emerging affluent. In many key markets in the region, investments, particularly in local equities, are a key driver to wealth growth," said Lee.

Earlier, Forbes said that Hong Kong's 40 wealthiest are now worth $135 billion, up from $82 billion a year ago, but still well below the peak of $179 billion in 2008.

But Hong Kong is also regarded as "both heaven and hell", depending on whom you ask. A report from the United Nations Development Program shows the city tops the world when it comes to the wealth gap between the rich and poor.

The employers' federation is still debating fiercely with trade unions about an hourly minimum pay of HK$24 or HK$33, as Hong Kong is yet to pass legislation on the sensitive issue of setting a minimum wage for the underprivileged groups in the city.

China Daily

(HK Edition 07/14/2010 page3)