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

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Updated: February 29, 2020 9:49 PM

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.

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. (Representative image)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. (Representative image)

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

The combined fortunes of the world’s 500 richest people fell by $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.

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.

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