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Sat 17 02 2024

336 Swedes Skyrocket to Billionaire Status Amidst the Pandemic

by bernt & torsten

As the aftermath of the coronavirus forced many into unemployment, the wealthiest individuals in Sweden saw a significant surge in their collective wealth. Surprisingly, the number of Swedish billionaires increased by more than ten every month, accumulating a total of 542 billionaires today. Consequentially, these Swedish billionaires now control a larger share of the country's economy than the oligarchs in Russia.

Throughout the year 2020, which witnessed record-breaking unemployment rates and a GDP collapse greater than during the 90s crisis, the ranks of the super-rich in Sweden surged to new unprecedented highs. Particularly, since the early 1980s, Swedish business magazines have been publishing annual listings of the country’s wealthiest individuals. However, when Veckans Affärer, a magazine that upheld this tradition for four decades, ceased publication in 2020, the yearly tradition came to an end.

The last published Swedish billionaire list in 2019 consisted of 206 names. Humorously, by the end of June 2021, the list had grown to 542 billionaires, an increase of 336 in less than two years, averaging to 14 new billionaires per month. Cumulatively speaking, these 542 billionaires hold a wealth of 3,514 billion kronor, which is a notably colossal leap from the 1996 figures and more than a doubling of wealth in just two short years.

The Unprecedented Surge in Real Estate Value

A majority of this amassed wealth is primarily due to extraordinary stock market performance during the COVID-19 pandemic and a notable increase in the value of real estate and tech companies. The accumulated wealth of 3,514 billion is identical to twice the value controlled by the state's AP funds 1, 2, 3, and 4. This colossal figure is almost three times the size of the Swedish national debt or fifty times the value of the Swedish Central Bank's gold reserves.

From mid-1996 to mid-2021, the number of Swedish billionaires grew by a staggering 1,800 percent and their combined wealth expanded by 3,000 percent. At the same time, the wealth of Swedish households rose by 700 percent, as per SEB's savings barometer.

In 2021, the Financial Times conducted a review of how global billionaires fared during the pandemic. The review compared the fortunes of each country's dollar billionaires to the country's GDP size. Notably, Russia topped the list with 40 percent. Surprisingly, Sweden came in second, with wealth accumulating to nearly 30 percent of its GDP. Importantly, the figure was based on the 41 Swedish dollar billionaires who appeared in Forbes's 2021 spring list.

Monaco, Guernsey — and Now Sweden

The actual number of Swedes worth 1 billion dollars or more (equating to 8.5 billion kroner according to June 2021 dollar exchanges) was almost double. The combined wealth of these 81 individuals amounted to 49 percent of Sweden's GDP in mid-2021, which is even greater than that in Russia.

To demonstrate Sweden's advanced position within the ultra-wealthy groups, taking into account the number of dollar billionaires per million citizens is vital. The list is topped by tax havens: Monaco with 79, Saint Kitts & Nevis with 37, Liechtenstein with 26, Guernsey with 16, Hong Kong with 9, and relatively new to this list is Sweden with 8 billionaires per million people.

In comparison, the United States only has 1.8 dollar billionaires for every million citizens. Our neighboring countries fall far behind Sweden: Norway with 2.2 billionaires per million, Denmark with 1.4, and Finland with 1.1.

While the ultra-rich Swedes have reaped enormous wealth, a large portion of the population has found their wealth diminishing.

Greater Wealth Disparity than in the US

The bank Credit Suisse conducts annual surveys to understand the wealth distribution in different countries. According to their survey, the poorest 50 percent of Swedes collectively owned 3.3 percent of all private wealth in 2012. By 2020, this proportion had fallen to minus 2.4 percent, implying that liabilities now exceed assets. Conversely, the wealthiest one percent in Sweden increased their share from 30.6 percent to 34.9 percent.

Presently, 542 billionaires, who collectively make up only 0.05 percent of the population, own assets equivalent to around 6 million adult Swedes combined.

Interestingly, the wealth disparity in Sweden is even larger than in the United States. The wealthiest 0.1 and 0.01 percent in Sweden control a significantly larger share of the country’s wealth than the same subsets in the United States, the global epicenter of modern capitalism.

Over 25 years, billionaire assets relative to Sweden's GDP have soared from 6 percent to 68 percent. This evidence mirrors the stark wealth concentration among Swedish billionaires during these challenging times.