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World’s richest lose $444 billion after hellish week for markets

  • Tom Metcalf, Jack Witzig and Tom Maloney

    Bloomberg

London, United Kingdom/Princeton, New Jersey/New York   /   Sat, February 29, 2020   /   04:10 pm
World’s richest lose $444 billion after hellish week for markets Pedestrians pass an electronic ticker board and a screen displaying stock figures outside the Exchange Square complex, which houses the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, in Hong Kong, China, on Monday. (Bloomberg/Justin Chin)

Last week was an expensive one for most investors, even for billionaires.

The combined fortunes of the world’s 500 richest people fell by US$444 billion as the coronavirus continued to spread -- and spread fear -- rattling equity markets worldwide. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled more than 12%, the biggest five-day slide since the depths of the 2008 financial crisis, in a rout that vaporized more than $6 trillion from global stocks.

The drubbing more than erased the $78 billion in gains that the 500 wealthiest people had amassed since the start of the year through last week, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The world’s three richest people -- Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault -- incurred the biggest losses, with their combined wealth dropping about $30 billion.

Elon Musk, the world’s 25th-richest person, rang up the fourth-largest weekly loss -- $9 billion -- as shares of his Tesla Inc. slid after a steep climb to start the year. He’s still up $8.8 billion in 2020 and has a net worth of $36.3 billion.

Health officials are struggling to contain the virus, which can cause a potentially deadly pneumonia-like illness in a minority of patients and spread from others who look healthy. The World Health Organization has thus far refrained from declaring it a pandemic.

Read more: Nowhere to hide from coronavirus as rout hits all sectors

About 80% of billionaires on Bloomberg’s wealth ranking are now in the red this year, including those whose businesses have been swept up in the global drama. Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky  

Arison lost $1 billion this week as the world’s largest cruise-line operator held tourists aboard one of its ships in Japan, where at least five passengers have died.