Half of Europe’s millionaires are Russian

Half of Europe’s millionaires are Russian, according to financial group Merrill Lynch. A report by the U.S. firm found the number of rich Russians is growing twice as fast as the global rate.

Merrill Lynch says that after Euro-2008, Russia will have 11 more millionaires. There are already 136,000 of them, with more than $US 1 million to spare.

The number of rich individuals in Russia grew by 14% last year – more than twice the global average. Merrill Lynch says this was fuelled by increased market capitalisation, rising direct foreign investment, strong consumer demand and soaring energy prices.

Jean-Marie Deluermoz of Merrill Lynch said: “The conclusion of our findings this year is that in Europe the most attractive growth story is certainly Russia.”

Alexander Kochubey from Renaissance Capital agrees that the country is now at the peak of a very strong wave of wealth creation, but he says: “The reality is that in Russia wealth is concentrated in very few hands.”

“By my estimation, less than 1 % controls over 80% of the assets in this country,” he says.  

He says this obvious growth is illusory and not everybody is getting a piece of the pie.

Those willing to become successful businessmen in Russia have to be ready to deal with skill shortages, poor infrastructure and a Byzantine bureaucracy, often riddled with corruption.

And the report was not all sunshine for Russia's rich. Despite being a faster performing economy than its Western competitors, Russia's is growing more slowly than its main BRIC counterparts, India and China.