The global super rich continued to splash out on super-yachts and luxury goods last year, despite a decline in their overall wealth in the wake of financial market turmoil.
According to the latest wealth report from estate agents Knight Frank, published on Wednesday, sales of super-yachts – boats longer than 24 metres – soared 40% in 2015, with the rich roaring off to ever more far-flung destinations, such as the Antarctic and outposts in Asia, rather than their traditional ports of call in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
The number of ultra rich – people with $30m (£22m) or more in assets – fell 3% last year. There are now 187,500 with assets in excess of that benchmark, down from from 193,100 in 2014. This was the first decline since the financial crisis. Between them, they controlled $19.3tn in assets, down from $22tn the year before. This reflected the rollercoaster global stock markets, the slump in commodity prices and slowing economic growth in China and other countries.
The number of dollar millionaires around the globe also fell from 13.6 million in 2014 to 13.3 million last year. Together, they hold assets worth $66tn – more than the value of all global shares added together.
But the report believes that the decline in the number of millionaires is just a blip, and predicts that by 2025, there will be more than 18 million of them.
So-called investments of passion such as art, cars, stamps and jewellery remain popular among the super rich. Knight Frank’s art index rose by a muted 4% last year, but a number of records were set in the world’s auction houses.
Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger notched up a new record for a painting sold at auction after fetching more than $179m, while Reclining Nude by Amedeo Modigliani went under the hammer for $170m to a buyer from Shanghai.
Classic cars increased by 17% in value last year, while coins went up 13%. Knight Frank’s overall luxury investment index rose 7% in 2015. This compares with a 5% drop in the value of London’s leading share index, the FTSE 100, and a rise of just 1% for prime London residential property.
Andrew Shirley, the editor of the wealth report, said: “Although no classic car managed to beat the record set by Bonhams in 2014 when it auctioned a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta for $38m, eight of the 25 cars ever to have sold for over $10m at auction went under the hammer in 2015.”
Wine and luxury watches both posted 5% increases. A Hong Kong-based billionaire set a record for a gem or piece of jewellery when he paid $48.4m for the Blue Moon, a rare fancy vivid blue diamond auctioned by Sotheby’s in Geneva in November. The day before, he paid $28.5m for a vivid pink diamond sold by Christie’s.
The value of investment-grade Bordeaux wines slumped as a result of a sharp fall in demand from China, but they have now started to recover, said Nick Martin of Wine Owners.
Even furniture values, which generally had a poor year, set a new auction record for a living maker when the Lockheed Lounge sofa by the Australian designer Marc Newson sold for £2.4m in April 2015.
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