By Esther Teo
MEMBERSHIP of Singapore's millionaires' club has taken a hit in the face of the global economic downturn. The number of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) here - those who hold at least US$1 million in investible assets - shrank by 21.6 per cent to 61,000 last year, up from 78,000 in 2007, according to the Asia-Pacific Wealth Report released by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini on Tuesday.
Japan comes out top of the survey with 1.36 million HNWIs, well ahead of Singapore at sixth place and Hong Kong and Indonesia at ninth and tenth place respectively.
The combined wealth of Singapore's millionaires shrank 29.4 per cent to US$272 billion during the year - the third-largest erosion of wealth in the region after Hong Kong and Australia.
The reasons cited for the decline are the slowing of Singapore's GDP growth and the plunge of the stock market, which fell 50.8 per cent last year.
Asia-Pacific's total population of high net worth individuals, three-quarters of whom are based in Japan, China and Australia, fell 14.2 per cent.
The publication reports that wealthy Asians have staged a flight to safety in the face of economic uncertainty, allocating their wealth to 'safer' cash-based investments and demonstrating a lower appetite for riskier asset classes. They have also favoured more familiar territories, choosing to invest in home regional markets instead of markets in Europe or North America.