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The number of millionaires in Israel increased by 12 percent in 2005, and reached 7,484, according to a report issued by the Israeli branch of investment house Merrill Lynch yesterday.

A millionaire is defined as someone with liquid assets of over a million dollars not including real estate, holdings in private companies, or mortgaged property.

The world's millionaire population grew by only 6.5 percent last year, reaching 8.7 million.

The number of Israeli multi-millionaires, those with liquid assets of over $30 million, grew 20 percent in 2005, reaching 84. The number of multi-millionaires in the world grew by 10.2 percent last year to 85,400.

The total wealth of all Israeli millionaires and multi-millionaires grew 25 percent in 2005, reaching $24 billion.

Merrill Lynch said that very few of those on the 2004 list fell off last year's list.

Three Israelis -- apparently Yitzhak Tshuva, Haim Saban, and Judith and Jacob Richter -- joined the list of the 500 world's richest people in 2005, bringing to nine the number of Israelis on the exclusive list.

The major factors behind the growth in the number of millionaires in the world is GDP growth and the rising stock markets in 2005, according to the report.

The fact that the growth of Israeli millionaires doubled the world average was due to a larger number of mergers, acquisitions and capital market offerings by local companies.

In addition, Israel's wealthy is characterized by more aggressive investment styles and larger-than-average investments in emerging markets with higher returns, and risks, than millionaires elsewhere in the world.

While North America remains the most preferred investment target, there is a marked movement of capital from the continent to emerging markets that sport higher returns.

The Asia Pacific region beat out Europe as the second-most attractive area for international investors in 2005. Europe maintained its 22 percent share of world investment, with Asia Pacific now at 23 percent.

The Middle East and Latin America also showed significant growth in 2005, both in the number of millionaires, and the amount of attracted investments.

The biggest rise in millionaires in the world was in South Korea, with a 21.3 percent jump, followed by India, with a 19.3 percent rise. Russia had 17.4 percent more millionaires in 2005.

The number of millionaires in the world has nearly doubled in the last decade, from 4.5 million in 1996 to 8.7 million in 2006, and their total wealth doubled from $16.6 trillion to $33.3 trillion.