The world’s richest billionaires have lost more than $50bn (£37bn) this week as their fortunes – mostly held in technology companies – dropped in a “white knuckle” rout on tech shares.
Elon Musk, the wealthiest person on the planet, saw his fortune fall by $25.8bn in a single day on Thursday, according to the latest data available, as shares in his electric car company, Tesla, fell 11% to their lowest since October.
Despite the dip – which is roughly equivalent to the annual salaries of 615,000 people earning the average UK salary of £31,000 – Musk is still the richest person alive by some distance.
The fortune of Jeff Bezos, the world’s second-richest person and the founder of Amazon, has fallen by $27.8bn since the start of the year to $164bn, according to Bloomberg’s daily tally of billionaires’ fortunes. Amazon shares have dropped by a quarter since November.
The billionaires’ paper loses come as the tech-heavy Nasdaq stock exchange in New York has suffered its worst start to the year since 2008 as investors sell off “stay at home” stocks that had performed strongly during pandemic lockdowns and prepare for interest rate rises.
“We view this as the most important earnings season for the tech space in potentially the last decade,” Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in a note to clients. “The Street now needs to hear good news at a ‘white knuckle time’ from tech bellwethers.”
Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates and former chief executive Balmer Steve Ballmer, as well as Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have each seen their fortunes drop by more than $10bn since the start of the year.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Meta (the company formerly known as Facebook), has seen his paper worth knocked by $15bn or 12% since the new year, sending him falling to number eight in the wealth league table with $110bn.
Zuckerberg was leapfrogged by the “Sage of Omaha” investor Warren Buffett, who has risen to sixth with an estimated $111bn. He is the only one of the world’s Top 10 richest people to have made a gain so far this year, with his fortune rising by $2.4bn.
Lo Toney, a managing partner at the investment firm Plexo Capital, said: “We have the multi-sector investors who are moving out of tech because with a rising interest rate environment, they typically move over to other sectors that benefit from rising interest rates – financials, insurance.
“What we see is that high interest rate environments really punish the growth stocks, the tech stocks in particular,” he told CNBC.
While the billionaires may have suffered share-price losses this month, the fortunes of the 10 richest people – all men – have roughly doubled since the start of the pandemic.