REFILE-Europeans best at preserving wealth - study

Thu Apr 3, 2014 6:53am EDT

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By Joshua Franklin

LONDON, April 2 (Reuters) - Europeans have proved the best at preserving billion dollar fortunes through market peaks and troughs over the past 25 years, a study showed on Wednesday.

Forbes Insights found 78 percent of family and individually owned fortunes in Europe worth at least $1 billion have remained intact since 1989, many belonging to families behind well known brands such as BMW, L'Oreal and Swarovski.

This compared to 73 percent of individuals' fortunes in the United States, 57 percent in the Americas and 50 percent in the Middle East and Africa.

But the study found only 41 percent of individual European billionaires retained their fortunes over the last 25 years.

Societe Generale, who worked with Forbes on the report, said European families lean more to preserving old money across generations where fortunes can sometimes be shared between hundreds of family members.

Billionaires in the United States on the other hand direct more of their wealth to charity, with dozens of U.S. billionaires pledging to donate at least half their fortunes through The Giving Pledge.

"In Europe, families are more adept and used to the notion of planning their succession, not only for their businesses but also for their wealth," said Jon Needham, Societe Generale Private Banking Hambros' global head of fiduciary services.

Preserving wealth can be more difficult when the next generation does not want to remain involved in the company behind the fortune. This is most common in fortunes in their third generation, said Societe Generale Private Banking Hambros Chief Executive Eric Barnett.

"They want to express themselves in a different way," he said. "If they were brought up in a brewing company they're probably bored of beer." (Reporting by Joshua Franklin, editing by David Evans)

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