The total billionaire wealth rose by more than a quarter during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic to reach $10.2 trillion in July, breaking the previous record of $8.9 trillion at the end of 2017. The surge is on account of a jump in stock prices and gains in technology and healthcare that helped the wealth of the billionaires surpass the $10 trillion mark, according to a report released by UBS and PwC.
The billionaires "did extremely well" at the height of the coronavirus pandemic from April to July, even as people across the globe lost their jobs, said the report which covers more than 2,000 billionaires representing some 98 per cent of the cohort's total wealth. The number of billionaires has also hit a new high of 2,189, up from 2,158 in 2017.
The wealth of the billionaires from every industry covered by the report saw a rise of double digits between April 7 and July 31 this year. The billionaires in the technology, healthcare and industrial sectors led with 36 per cent to 44 per cent gains.
From 2018 through July 2020, tech billionaires saw their wealth rise 42.5 per cent to $1.8 trillion, the report said. The billionaires deriving their fortune from healthcare similarly saw their wealth rise 50.3 per cent during the period to $658.6 billion.
"Billionaires did extremely well during the Covid crisis, not only [did] they ride the storm to the downside, but also gained up on the upside [as stock markets rebounded]," said Josef Stadler, head of UBS's global family office department.
The report also points out that the super-rich gained wealth amid the pandemic as they had "the stomach" to buy more shares at a time when the equity markets were tumbling globally.
However,the report also mentions that many billionaires generously donated to help fight against the coronavirus and help the families hit by the lockdowns.
"Our research has identified 209 billionaires who have publicly committed a total equivalent to $7.2bn from March to June 2020," the report said. "They have reacted quickly, in a way that's akin to disaster relief, providing unrestricted grants to allow grantees to decide how best to use funds."
Just over 200 of those billionaires publicly committed some $7.2 billion to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, the study said.