Mumbai :Gautam Adani, the Indian billionaire who turned a small commodities trading business into a conglomerate spanning ports, mines and green energy, is now Asia’s richest person.
The 59-year-old mogul’s net worth reached $88.5 billion , according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, eclipsing fellow countryman Mukesh Ambani’s $87.9 billion. With an almost $12 billion jump in his personal fortune, Adani is the world’s biggest wealth-gainer this year.
The coal magnate — whose controversial Australian mine project drew flak from climate activists including Greta Thunberg — has increasingly looked beyond the fossil fuel for expansion. He’s moving into renewable energy, airports, data centers and defense contracting — priorities Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also considers crucial to nation-building and meeting the country’s long-term economic goals.
“The Adani Group has spotted and entered all the happening sectors at the right time, which has appealed to a select band of foreign portfolio investors,” said Deepak Jasani, head of retail research at Mumbai-based brokerage HDFC Securities Ltd. “The sectors are capital-intensive and the company has faced little difficulty in raising funds to expand.”
Some of Adani Group’s listed stocks have soared more than 600% in the past two years on bets his push into green energy and infrastructure will pay off as Modi looks to revive the $2.9 trillion economy and meet the India’s carbon net-zero target by 2070. MSCI Inc.’s decision to include more Adani companies in its Indian benchmark index has also meant any fund tracking the gauge will have to buy the shares.
While 2020 was Ambani’s year — his oil-to-petrochemicals conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. created billions of dollars in wealth through a technology pivot that brought in Facebook and Google Inc. as investors — the pendulum has since swung toward Adani.
Both Indian billionaires — who have built their empires on fossil fuels or coal — are now pushing ahead with green energy projects. Ambani has committed $10 billion over the next three years as part of a larger $76 billion spend plan in renewables. Adani has pledged to invest a total of $70 billion by 2030 to help his group become the world’s largest renewable-energy producer.
Firms including Total SE and Warburg Pincus LLC have invested in Adani’s companies in 2021. The French oil giant agreed in January 2021 to buy 20% of Adani Green Energy Ltd. and a 50% stake in the Indian partner’s portfolio of operating solar assets, though at a steep discount. The deal value was just $2.5 billion, compared with Adani Green’s market capitalization of $20 billion at the time.