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Article Date: September 29, 2010


Singapore´s rich skip art for fast cars, diamond watches

Wine is an attractive category for many new ´investor-collectors´ as
it has a lower entry point and is more readily accessible.


(SINGAPORE) Singaporeans are not known to be art lovers, and it seems the rich are as Philistine as the hoi polloi.

The millionaires in our midst prefer to splurge on fast cars, diamond encrusted watches and drink, rather than on paintings, going by the 2010 Asia-Pacific wealth report by Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management and Capgemini.

Under passion investment, the rich here allocated only 17 per cent for art but 27 per cent went for luxury collectibles - which refers to cars, boats and jets. Jewellery, gems and watches also got 27 per cent. The well-heeled also prefer fine wine to wandering around in art galleries, spending 20 per cent on ´other collectibles´ - that is, coins, wine and antiques.

China and Malaysia are other countries where art collecting got short shrift. Spending on diamonds and watches were highest in these two countries.

Art lovers were mostly found in South Korea (28 per cent), India (27 per cent) and Australia (26 per cent).

Auction houses are doing roaring business in the Asia-Pacific, and especially in China, where the rich have regained most of the losses due to the 2008 financial crisis.

The combined wealth of Asia-Pacific millionaires surged 30.9 per cent to US$9.7 trillion in 2009, erasing losses in 2008 and surpassing Europe's rich.

In 2009, auction houses worldwide reported strong buying interest from the Asia-Pacific for tangible assets such as high-end jewellery, gems, art and fine wine.

That buying interest has increased so much that both Sotheby´s and Christie´s now count Hong Kong as their No 3 auction centre, after London and New York.

While Hong Kong is still the region´s predominant buyer of polished diamonds, retail demand is surging in China, where diamonds have become revered as wedding tokens and sought after by the young and newly wealthy.

For example, Belgian officials recently said they expect one in every two polished diamonds from Antwerp to be sold to a Chinese buyer within five years.

China has become the third-largest art auction market, increasing its share from 7.2 per cent of the global fine art auction market in 2008 to 17.4 per cent in 2009.

Sotheby´s Asia reported that 57 per cent of the wine sold at its auctions in 2009 was acquired by Asian buyers, mostly from mainland China.

Wine is an attractive category for many new ´investor-collectors´ as it has a lower entry point and is more readily accessible.