600,000 millionaires created in 2004

NEW YORK - An additional 600,000 millionaires were created around the world in 2004, with North America and Asia leading Europe in the wealth stakes, according to a report.

There are now an estimated 8.3 million people who can claim to have one million dollars, excluding their main residence, according to the 2005 World Wealth Report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini.

The report estimated the net worth of the world's wealthy elite at 30.2 trillion dollars, an 8.2% rise on 2003.

North America has about 2.7 million people worth at least one million dollars - high-net-worth individuals (HNWI) - 10% more than the last report and overtaking Europe, which has 2.6 million.

The Asia-Pacific region has 2.3 million, up more than 8.0 percent, and Asia's growth rate was twice as fast as Europe's.

"The two main drivers of personal wealth creation - economic growth and market capitalisation - worked together to generate the strongest growth in high-net-worth wealth that we've seen in more than three years," said James Gorman, an executive vice president of Merrill Lynch.

"Looking regionally, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and India saw the highest rates of HNWI population growth, while wealthy people in South Africa and the Middle East benefited from the rise in commodity and oil prices.

"Growth generally lagged in Europe, with only two nations - the United Kingdom and Spain - showing growth comparable to the worldwide rate," Gorman said.

Bertrand Lavayssiere, managing director of global financial services for the Capgemini consultancy, said that while Europe was lagging because of high unemployment and slow economic growth, the emerging nations Brazil, China, India and Russia "continued to emerge as an economic force and create wealth in the process".

AFP

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