Saturday, 31 Oct 2020

Billionaires increase wealth to £7,800,000,000,000 during pandemic

The super-rich have never been richer, with their wealth soaring to a record high of £7.8 trillion during the coronavirus pandemic.

As millions of people all over the world lost their jobs at the height of the crisis, billionaires increased their wealth by more than a quarter (27.5%), according to a report by Swiss bank UBS.

The number of billionaires has also reached a new high, rising from 2,158 to 2,189, with most benefitting from betting on the recovery of global stock markets after they hit rock bottom during lockdown.

The world’s richest person, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, increased his wealth by $74 billion this year, and is now worth $189bn.

But it is Tesla founder Elon Musk who has made the most money so far this year, swelling his fortune by $76bn to $103bn.

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Josef Stadler, who deals directly with the super-rich at UBS, said billionaires did ‘extremely well’ during the pandemic.

He said they had ‘the stomach’ to buy more company shares as markets around the world crashed.

As these markets rebounded, billionaires more than made up for their losses.

While this may sound like great news for billionaires, Stadler warned this massive wealth creation at a time of global financial disaster, could create a public backlash.

He said: ‘Is there a risk they may be singled out by society? Yes. Are they aware of it? Yes.’

Luke Hilyard, executive director of the thinktank High Pay Centre, said the UBS report is a ‘sign that capitalism isn’t working as it should’, warning that billionaires making even more money will be ‘economically and socially destructive’.

He told the Guardian: ‘Billionaire wealth equates to a fortune almost impossible to spend over multiple lifetimes of absolute luxury.

‘Anyone accumulating riches on this scale could easily afford to raise the pay of the employees who generate their wealth, or contribute a great deal more in taxes to support vital public services, while remaining very well rewarded for whatever successes they’ve achieved.’

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