Some super rich in Europe really are getting richer

Mercedes-Benz cars are displayed in a dealership of German car manufacturer Daimler in Munich May 17, 2013. How many Mercedes staff does it take to se...
Mercedes-Benz cars are displayed in a dealership of German car manufacturer Daimler in Munich May 17, 2013. Latest data show that the super rich in Europe increased their wealth last year.MICHAELA REHLE / Reuters

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By Robert Frank

Europe's top economies may be stalled, but in some countries there, the rich really are getting richer.

The report, from Wealth-X, a wealth research firm, said the number of people worth $30 million or more in Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy grew 6 percent in 2012. Their combined fortunes surged 13 percent to $3.4 trillion.

Germany posted the strongest gains, with the number of ultra-wealthy people growing 6 percent to 16,734, with total fortunes of more than $2 trillion. Switzerland's ultra-rich saw their fortunes grow 15 percent.

Even France—often portrayed as the country of wealth flight rather than wealth creation—saw its super-wealthy population grow 5 percent and fortunes gain 12 percent.

Based on Wealth-X’s methodology, the report only focused on those four countries, and excluded other European nations including Britain and Spain.

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Wealth-X attributed the improvements to smart investing. "Smart investments and prudent estate planning among the UHNW (ultra-high-net worth) individuals in these economies explain why they performed better than other European nations in the current economic climate," said Wealth-X President David Friedman.

Yet there may be another reason: globalization. Many of the ultra-rich in European countries own global businesses or companies that benefit from growth in other countries, making them far less dependent on their home countries. Many luxury companies in France, top manufacturers in Germany and design firms in Italy have decoupled from Europe and continue to see sales growth from China, the U.S. and other (relatively) stronger economies.

(Read More: US Back on Top: Most Millionaires in 2012)

Just consider Amancio Ortega, the founder of Spanish clothing chain Zara. Spain is hurting, but Ortega's wealth has soared by more than $10 billion over the past year to more than $50 billion. That makes him among the five richest men in the world.