Social distancing helping billionaire ride out market rout

Yuan added US$2 bil to his net worth this year. (AFP pic)

NEW YORK: The continuing rout in global stocks obliterated about US$4 trillion of market value Monday, but one billionaire is managing to avoid the onslaught as social distancing becomes the norm.

Eric Yuan, the founder of Zoom Video Communications Inc added US$20 million to his net worth on a day when the S&P 500 plunged 12%, the most since Black Monday on Oct 19, 1987.

Shares of the video-conferencing company climbed 0.4%, boosting its year-to-date gain to 58%.

Yuan, 50, has added US$2 billion to his net worth in 2020, the fourth-biggest increase in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world’s 500 richest people.

After starting the year unranked, he’s now at No 274 on the list with a US$5.6 billion fortune.

Demand for Zoom’s software, which facilitates virtual conferences and web meetings, is exploding as the spreading virus is prompting office closures and meeting cancellations.

Business conferences, college courses and even children’s playgroups have all moved online as people worldwide heed calls to stay away from one another.

Born in China, Yuan overcame eight denials on his US visa application before finally making it to Silicon Valley.

He came up with the idea for Zoom after repeatedly travelling 10 hours to see his girlfriend while they were college students.

The world’s 500 wealthiest lost a total of US$258 billion Monday, pushing their collective losses this year to more than US$1 trillion.

Facebook Inc co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, the world’s fifth-richest person, incurred the biggest one-day decline, with his fortune plunging US$9 billion to $56.3 billion.

Last centibillionaire

But no one has lost more wealth so far this year than Frenchman Bernard Arnault.

The chairman of luxury-goods maker LVMH ended 2019 as one of just three people with a net worth of at least $100 billion.

On Monday, his fortune sank US$4.6 billion, bringing his 2020 decline to US$40.6 billion.

He remains the world’s fourth-richest person.

Today, just one centibillionaire remains: Jeff Bezos. The Inc founder ended Monday with a net worth of US$105.5 billion after shares of the retailer slid 5.4% on the day and sliced an additional US$5.4 billion from his fortune.