Gulf dominates international rich list

Saudi Arabia emerges as home to the largest numbers of hyper-wealthy outside of the United States and Germany - with video.

Saudi men visit the Aston Martin stand at the International Luxury Motor Show (EXCS 2010) in the port city of Jeddah on October 12, 2010. AFP PHOTO/AMER HILABI
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Saudi Arabia is topping the Gulf for the concentration of hyper rich - those worth from then $100 million - with the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait also figuring within the top ten on an international richlist.

Dubai's financial services industry is reaping rewards from wealthy investors from Saudi Arabia, which now accounts for the greatest numbers of hyper-rich outside of the US and Germany, according to a new study.

The survey from Boston Consulting Group also showed Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE as among the top ten countries worldwide for the largest number of millionaires per capita.

"Dubai sustains its position as most prominent offshore centre in the Arab world, with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait and Russia emerging as the most important origins of offshore wealth," the survey said.

In the Middle East and Africa, "assets under management rose by 8.6 per cent to hit $4.5 trillion in 2010 and [are expected] to reach $6.7 trillion by 2015."

One in every twenty UAE households has more than $1 million in assets, compared to one in every eleven people in Qatar.

But these Gulf states were dwarfed in wealth by Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom emerged as the leading country in the world for ultra-high-net-worth households, defined as those net worth of more than $100 million, with 18 such families for every 100,000. Switzerland came second, with 10 such households for every 100,000.

The United States has the largest total of ultra-high-net-worth households, 2,692, followed by Germany and Saudi Arabia.

Dr Sven-Olaf Vathje, partner and managing director at BCG Middle East said, "Given the demographics and overall wealth of these petroleum-rich countries we would expect a higher proportion of [ultra-high-net-worth] households than in other parts of the world.

"Growth in assets under management also reflects the strong fundamentals of the region, driven by continuing strong petroleum prices," he said.

Wealth grew fastest in the Asia-Pacific region, at a 17.1 per cent rate, though Japan's wealth has fallen since last year.

The total assets held offshore across the Middle East and Africa accounted for $1.4 trillion, with the majority held in the UK, the Channel Islands, Dublin and Switzerland.

"The risk appetite of regional investors remains low, especially when compared to levels seen before the downturn," Dr Vathje added. "The asset allocation of GCC high net worth individuals remains overweight in cash and capital-protected products".

The UAE has attempted to capitalise on the growing need for asset management, with Abu Dhabi's Vision 2030 calling for the development of the emirate's financial services sector.

But banks in the Emirates have rushed to establish private banks and convince Middle Eastern investors that their asset management needs are better served locally.

Falcon Private Bank, a Swiss bank which was purchased by Aabar Investments in 2009, recently established a branch in Abu Dhabi as part of these efforts.