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Over the past five years to the end of 2018, billionaire wealth grew by more than a third, reaching a total of $8.5 trillion, $2.2 trillion higher than five years earlier, according to a new report on billionaires by UBS and PwC. In the same period, 589 individuals became billionaires, increasing the population by 38.9% to 2,101. Leading this wealth creation is the technology industry.
With tech titans like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates leading the billionaire club, it comes as no surprise that technology is the only sector where billionaire wealth increased last year, rising 3.4% to $1.3 trillion.
The number of billionaire-controlled tech companies has almost doubled from 76 to 148 over the past five years. Particularly software, internet, and electronic equipment entrepreneurs have developed powerful businesses over the past 30 years. Rising steadily are the pioneers driving the future of subsectors such as e-commerce, fintech, ride-hailing, and data systems. Billionaire wealth in such sectors has appreciated by 419% and 504% respectively over five years.
Amongst the top 20 tech billionaires, 10 individuals are from the US and four from China. Spearheading success and banking cash include billionaires like Zhang Yiming, the Chinese internet entrepreneur who founded ByteDance, the social media group. ByteDance is most known for its news app Toutiao and social video app TikTok. On Thursday, TikTok surpassed 1.5 billion downloads on the App Store and Google Play as it continues to be one of the world’s most popular apps, according to Sensor Tower Store Intelligence estimates. The new entrant to the billionaire club ranked as the 14th wealthiest tech entrepreneur.
If the wealth of tech billionaires were a country, it would rank second only to the US. American tech billionaires accounted for more than half of the global growth.
By contrast, profitability suffered in companies within the entertainment and media, materials, and utilities sectors. Media companies have struggled against digital competition, materials businesses have experienced headwinds from depressed commodity prices, and utilities are facing stiffer competition from new renewable energy sources.