Brexit: World's richest lose over $170 billion as $2.7 trillion wiped off global markets

Brexit: World's richest lose over $170 billion as $2.7 trillion wiped off global markets

Utter chaos. That was the reaction in the aftermath of last Friday's (June 24) "Brexit" referendum in the United Kingdom (UK), which sent financial markets into freefall.

The referendum saw a 52-48 per cent victory for the "Leave" campaign, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and causing the British pound to plunge to its lowest levels in more than 30 years.

More than US$2 trillion (S$2.7 trillion) was wiped out from global markets after voters in the UK chose to leave the European Union.

It was the biggest recorded one-day loss in history, CNBC reported, surpassing even the US$1.9 trillion that was lost in September 2008 during the height of the financial crisis.

Some of the hardest hit were the world's mega-rich. Bloomberg reported that the world's 400 wealthiest people lost US$127.4 billion, or 3.2 per cent of their total net worth, in a single day.

According to the Bloomberg's Billionaires Index, only 14 out of the world's top 200 billionaires did not lose money on Friday. 22 suffered over US$1 billion in losses each.

The biggest loser on the day was Europe's richest man Amancio Ortega, founder of the parent company of retailer Zara, who lost nearly eight per cent of his fortune after haemorrhaging US$6 billion.

The world's richest man, Bill Gates, also saw his wealth shrink after suffering a US$2.4 billion decline.

Asian billionaires didn't fare too well either. Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, who days before had warned that a "leave" vote would have a detrimental effect, lost US$1.1 billion.

Mr Li is the chairman of CK Hutchison, which is one of the UK's biggest investors and employers, owning everything from ports to retail stories and a mobile phone network, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Meanwhile, India's richest man Lakshmi Mittal was also one of the worst losers, seeing his entire net worth drop by close to 10 per cent after recording US$1.1 billion in losses.

However in a surprise, Brexit was relatively less devastating for the UK's richest, with the country's 15 richest people losing "only" US$5.5 billion, reported Bloomberg.

Virgin chairman Richard Branson's Virgin Money Holdings saw its shares fall by the most since November 2014. In a post on the Virgin Group's website, Mr Branson, a vocal supporter of the "Remain" camp, wrote that the decision "will do enormous damage to both Britain's economy and Europe's stability."

seanyap@sph.com.sg

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