Saudis top list of Mideast billionaires

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Middle East has a billionaire population of 157 with a total wealth of $354 billion, according to the inaugural Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census 2013.

The billionaire number is 3.3 percent higher than it was in 2012 when there were 152 billionaires. However, the total wealth increased 12.4 percent from $315bn, it said.

Saudi Arabia accounted for 64 billionaires with a net worth of $204bn, while the UAE came in second with 37 billionaires worth $45bn. Kuwait has 17 ($34bn); Qatar 9 ($20bn); Lebanon 8 ($14bn); Bahrain 1 ($2bn) and Yemen 1 ($1bn).

Middle Eastern billionaires are big spenders with the average value of real estate, yachts, and private planes that they own being the highest in the world, the report said. Lack of education does not appear to be a barrier for Middle Eastern billionaires — only 49 percent have a degree, which is the lowest figure for all regions.

Seventy-four of the billionaires are self-made; 24 are billionaires through inheritance, while 59 became billionaires through their own efforts and inheritance.

Finance, banking, investment and real estate, not oil & gas, are the most significant industries for billionaires in the UAE.

Billionaire wealth in the UAE has been supported by strong domestic equities – the Abu Dhabi Index is up over 40 percent since July 2012, the report said.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.