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Asia-Pacific leads spurt in millionaires

Global millionaires' ranks rose by 8.3 percent last year as the Asia-Pacific region overtook Europe for the first time, according to a report by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management.

The number of people with at least $1 million of investable assets increased to 10.9 million after markets rebounded following the financial crisis, according to the 15th annual World Wealth Report published Wednesday. Global wealth held by millionaires rose to $42.7 trillion, exceeding the $40.7 trillion reported for 2007.

Millionaires in the Asia-Pacific region jumped 9.7 percent to 3.3 million with the numbers in Hong Kong and Vietnam both climbing by about a third, the report showed. That compares with growth of 6.3 percent to 3.1 million in Europe and 8.6 percent to 3.4 million in North America.

"Regionally, Asia-Pacific was the real star of the growth story," John Thiel, head of U.S. wealth management for Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management, said at a media briefing in New York Wednesday. Stock-market returns and increases in the value of real estate in the region were major contributors, he said.

Africa showed the biggest increase in millionaires by region with growth of 11.1 percent, while India entered the top 12 country rankings for the first time, with 153,000. The number of millionaires in China grew by 12 percent to 534,500. China ranked fourth in the number of millionaires trailing the U.S., Japan and Germany.

About 53 percent of the world's millionaires, or individuals with at least $1 million in investable assets excluding primary residences and collectibles, are found in the United States, Japan and Germany, the report showed.

"While over half of the global high-net-worth individuals still resides in the top three countries, the concentration is fragmenting," said Herbert Hensle, vice president and head of Capgemini's Swiss office.

The number of millionaires in Switzerland increased by 9.7 percent last year, supported by the Alpine nation's strong economy and real-estate market, the report said.

Women and young millionaires account for an increasing portion of the world's rich, Merrill's World Wealth Report found. About 27 percent of global millionaires were women in 2010, compared with 24 percent in 2008. About 17 percent of millionaires were age 45 or younger compared with 13 percent in 2008, the report said.

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