Japan Tops Asian Millionaire Rankings, Growth Low

Japan remained home by far to more millionaires than any other Asia-Pacific country in 2006, but their number grew by the smallest percentage of any market in the region, according to a survey released on Tuesday.

China and Australia ranked second and third in the number of overall high net-worth individuals -- people with more than $1 million in financial assets excluding their homes -- but their growth also lagged the double-digit gains seen in other markets, the report said.

The number of these wealthy individuals in Japan grew 5.1 percent to 1.477 million in 2006, according to the Asia-Pacific Wealth Report produced by Merrill Lynch and consultants Capgemini.

Japan remained well ahead of mainland China, where despite its massive population and double digit economic growth, the population of wealthy individuals was just 345,000, a 7.8 percent increase from 2005.

Australia, where the number of wealthy rose 10.3 percent in 2006 to 161,000, ranked third.

Those growth rates lagged gains seen in South Korea, India, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Indonesia, where populations of the wealthy are smaller.

Tiny Singapore saw the fastest percentage increase globally in the number of high-net-worth individuals, at 21.2 percent to 66,660.

The report also said more than 150,000 Indian millionaires reside outside of their country's borders.

In 2006, the greatest concentration of wealthy non-resident Indians was in Hong Kong, followed by Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.

The report showed Japan's wealthy were worth less on average than their Asia-Pacific peers. The average net worth of the wealthy in Japan is $2.5 million, compared with the regional average of $3.3 million and global average of $3.9 million.

Hong Kong topped the ranks by this measure. Its wealthy were worth $5.4 million on average last year. It was followed by China at $5 million and Singapore at $4.9 million.

The report showed Asia's wealthy favored tangible asset classes like real estate and cash more than their global counterparts.

Their allocation to equities averaged just 25 percent, less than the global average of 31 percent. The report said they also allocated 8 percent to alternative investments and 15 percent to fixed-income, which were both below the global average.

Australians had the highest allocation to equities, at 37 percent, followed by Chinese at 34 percent. South Koreans had the highest allocation to real estate at 42 percent.