By Sara Hamdan and Dylan Bowman
Region's millionaires jump 15.6% to around 400,000, while wealth hits $1.7tn - Merrill.
The number of super-rich in the Middle East jumped 15.6 percent in 2007 to around 400,000 as economies in the region profited from record oil revenues, Merrill Lynch revealed on Tuesday.
The US investment bank said in its World Wealth Report 2008 that high net worth individuals (HNWI) in the Middle East were worth around $1.7 trillion last year, up 17.5 percent on 2006.
HNWIs are defined as those with net assets of at least $1 million, excluding their primary residences and consumables.
The number of millionaires in the region grew faster than anywhere else in the world, and the rate at which their wealth grew was also one of the fastest, according to the report, done in conjunction with consultancy CapGemini.
"As a region, the Middle East’s growth was the most impressive where sharp increases in oil prices, highlighted by the 57.2 percent gain on crude oil futures, contributed to a 15.6 percent increase in the region,” Merrill said.
The report said soaring growth in Middle East wealth was set to continue in the coming years, increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 15.3 percent to $3.4 trillion by 2012 - much faster than any other region.
Within the Middle East the report found Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, had the highest number of millionaires at 101,000, up from 90,000 in 2006, while the UAE came in second with 79,000 millionaires, up from 68,000 in 2006.
Despite huge growth in regional wealth, the Middle East still only made up around 3.9 percent of the world's super-rich last year, which was led by North America (3.3 million), Europe (3.1 million) and the Asia-Pacific (2.8 million), according to the report.
The Middle East had around 4.2 percent of total wealth controlled by HNWI worldwide in 2007, with North America on top with $11.7 trillion, followed by Europe ($10.6 trillion) and the Asia-Pacific ($9.5 trillion), the report said.