How (and why) Germany’s super rich list is growing in the pandemic

Both the number of super-rich in Germany, and their shared wealth, has grown since April, according to new study by the consulting firm PwC and the major Swiss bank UBS published on Wednesday.

How (and why) Germany's super rich list is growing in the pandemic
Photo: DPA

Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of billionaires in Germany grew from 114 to 119, according to the study published on Wednesday.

In Germany, the net assets of these ultra-rich rose to 594.9 billion US dollars by the end of July, following a slump at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in April. 

At the last survey conducted in March 2019, their total wealth amassed 500.9 billion dollars. 

After the outbreak of the pandemic, the German dollar billionaires achieved the greatest growth in the areas of technology (with their investments and assets in the field going up by 46 percent), health care (plus 12 percent) and finance (plus 11 percent).

Germany also continues to have the third largest number of millionaires in the world, according to the World Wealth Report published in July 2020.

READ ALSO: This is how many millionaires live in Germany

“Covid-19 is now disproportionately accelerating asset growth in innovation-driven areas such as the technology or healthcare sectors, thereby causing a shift in wealth,” said Maximilian Kunkel, UBS chief investment officer for Germany.

He said that traditionally the wealth of high-net worth circles in Germany remains relatively unchanged, even in turbulent times. 

According to Kunkel, entrepreneurs in these sectors have benefited in recent months, among other things, from the fact that short-term earnings losses have been limited, while long-term prospects have improved, sometimes significantly.

This map shows the number of billionaires (in green) and their total wealth in billions of US dollars (in yellow) as of the end of July 2020. Graph: DPA

Who are the richest Germans after the coronavirus crisis?

According to a recently published ranking by “Manager Magazin”, the richest Germans are likely to be the Reimann family of entrepreneurs, who have large shares in many daily cleaning and cosmetic products, with assets estimated at €32 billion. 

In second place is Lidl founder Dieter Schwarz with estimated assets of €30 billion. The siblings Susanne Klatten and Stefan Quandt, who own almost half of BMW shares, were named named third.

Their assets had fallen by €1.5 billion to an estimated €25 billion as a result of the coronavirus crisis. 

In contrast, a list published by the “Welt am Sonntag” on September 20th came to the conclusion that Lidl founder Schwarz is the richest German – with estimated assets of €41.8 billion. 

In second place comes the Reimann family with €21.45 billion.

However, even the super rich were affected by the turbulence at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, which caused, among other things, a sharp drop in prices on the stock markets.

According to the study, the weeks immediately after the outbreak of the pandemic in particular contributed to the fact that the total global assets of billionaires shrank by around 6.6 percent to 8 trillion dollars between March 2019 and April 2020. 

The club of the super-rich lost 43 members at times. 

From April onwards, a phase of recovery set in, in which total assets increased by around 28 percent by the end of July 2020.

Wealth rising around the globe

The coronavirus crisis has made the super-rich around the globe even richer. By the end of July, the total assets of the more than 2,000 dollar billionaires worldwide had risen to a record level of around 10.2 trillion dollars (€8.7 trillion), thanks in part to the recovery on the stock markets. 

According to the study, this was largely due to rapid growth in the fields of technology and healthcare, as is also the case in Germany.

The enormous fortune is thus divided between 2,189 men and women. Converted into euros, the sum is more than twice as high as the total annual economic output of Germany as the largest economy in Europe (in 2019 it was just just under €3.5 trillion). 

Cash, real estate, luxury goods, shares and company assets were taken into account. Liabilities were deducted.



Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.