World’s top 100 billionaires lost US$408b in 2 months to COVID-19

In just two months, the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out a combined US$408 billion from the world’s top 100 billionaires, with LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault suffering the biggest loss, US$30 billion, according to a special report by Hurun released Monday.

The billionaires’ wealth was calculated based on market data in U.S. dollars as of March 31, and then compared to the figures recorded in the Hurun Global Rich List 2020, a ranking of the world’s billionaires’ wealth as of January 31.

Throughout February and March, the COVID-19 outbreak swept through major stock markets. The Dow Jones was down 21%, and markets in India, France, Germany, and the U.K. were down 25%.

The only major market that was in the positive territory was China, up 0.2% during the two-month period, according to the special report, Hurun Wealth Impact Two Months After COVID-19 Outbreak.

Meanwhile, a stronger dollar also contributed in part to the loss of billionaires’ wealth outside the U.S. In the two months, the British pound lost 6.3% against the U.S. dollar, the Indian rupee down 5.2%, the Chinese yuan down 2.3%, and the euro down 0.4%, according to the report.

Arnault, 71, lost US$30 billion primarily because of the sharp devaluation of LVMH’s shares. He has approximately a 47% stake in the luxury conglomerate, which includes such brands as Louis Vuitton, Celine, Christian Dior, and Bulgari, among others.

LVMH’s stock price dropped to US$74 on March 31 from US$87 at the end of January. Arnault’s net worth dropped to US$77 billion from US$107 billion two months prior.

Among the top 100 billionaires on the Hurun Global Rich List 2020 released in February, only 9% saw their wealth increase in the last two months, 86% saw their wealth decline, and 5% were unchanged.

“The last two months have wiped out all the wealth made in the past two and a half years, with the world’s top 100 down 12.6% or US$408 billion, equivalent to each of the Hurun Top 100 losing US$75 millon a day,” Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Institute, said in the report.

Amazon’s chief executive Jeff Bezos lost US$9 billion in the two-month period, but he remained the world’s richest man with a net worth of US$131 billion.

California-based Eric Yuan Zheng, 50, of video conferencing platform Zoom, saw his wealth rise from US$3.5 billion to US$8 billion. The growth rate, at 77%, was the fastest among the world’s billionaires. The company’s stock price almost doubled in the last two months, increasing from US$76 to US$146 per share.

There were 2,816 known billionaires in the world, as recorded in the Hurun Global Rich List as of Jan. 31. The number is down 20% now to 2,253, according to the report.


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