What Slowdown? Rich Europeans Only Getting Richer
Europe's top economies may be stalled, but the region's super wealthy posted strong wealth gains in 2012, according to a new study.
The report, from Wealth-X, a wealth research firm, said the number of people worth $30 million or more in Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy grew 6 percent in 2012. Their combined fortunes surged 13 percent to $3.4 trillion.
Germany posted the strongest gains, with the ultra-wealthy growing 6 percent to 16,734, with total fortunes of more than $2 trillion. Switzerland's ultra-rich saw their fortunes grow 15 percent.
Even France—often portrayed as the country of wealth flight rather than wealth creation—saw its super-wealthy population grow 5 percent and fortunes gain 12 percent.
Wealth-X attributed the improvements to smart investing. "Smart investments and prudent estate planning among the UHNW (ultra-high-net worth) individuals in these economies explain why they performed better than other European nations in the current economic climate," said Wealth-X President David Friedman.
Yet there may be another reason: globalization. Many of the ultra-rich in European countries own global businesses or companies that benefit from growth in other countries, making them far less dependent on their home countries. Many luxury companies in France, top manufacturers in Germany and design firms in Italy have decoupled from Europe and continue to see sales growth from China, the U.S. and other (relatively) stronger economies.
(Read More: US Back on Top: Most Millionaires in 2012)
Just consider Amancio Ortega, the founder of Spanish clothing chain Zara. Spain is hurting, but Ortega's wealth has soared by more than $10 billion over the past year to more than $50 billion. That makes him among the five richest men in the world.
—By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.