India’s Adani becomes world’s third richest person with $137.4bn fortune

·3-min read

Indian billionaire Gautam Adani is now the third richest person in the world, a first for a businessman from Asia.

With a net worth of $137.4bn (£117.3bn), the 60-year-old chairman of business conglomerate Adani Group surpassed the riches of Louis Vuitton chairman Bernard Arnault to climb the ranks of wealth accumulation, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Tesla founder Elon Musk, with his $251.4bn net worth, remains the world’s richest person, followed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who has a new worth of $153bn.

Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries, was at number 11 with a total worth of $91.9bn. Mr Adani took over Mr Ambani as the richest Asian in February this year, before becoming a centi billionaire in April.

Mr Adani, a first-generation entrepreneur who tried his luck with diamonds before turning to coal, heads the Adani Group, which is the third-largest conglomerate in India after Reliance Industries and the Tata Group.

The Adani Group has seven publicly listed entities with businesses spread across energy, mining, ports, airports and defence. The group owns India’s largest private-sector port and airport operator, city-gas distributor and coal miner.

Mr Adani's wealth skyrocketed during the pandemic, adding $60.9bn to his coffers in 2022 alone, some five times more than his contemporaries.

The business giant faced heavy criticism over his Carmichael coal mine in Australia for its adverse impact on the Great Barrier Reef and overall carbon emissions, prompting him to announce a greater focus on renewable energy projects.

The group pledged a $70bn investment toward renewables, and his company is touted to become the world’s largest renewable power producer by 2030.

Mr Adani’s rise in global wealth rankings is partly because some members of the world’s top 1 per cent decided to boost their philanthropic donations.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates announced in July that he is moving $20bn to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, while business magnate Warren Buffett has already donated more than $35bn to charity.

For his 60th birthday in June, Mr Adani pledged to donate $7.7bn to social causes.

Mr Adani’s businesses have soared in value, some of them more than 1,000 per cent since 2020, even as market watchers have raised concerns over opaque shareholder structures and a lack of analyst coverage at the Adani companies.

Last week CreditSights, a Fitch Group unit, said the billionaire’s ports-to-power conglomerate is “deeply overleveraged”, with the group predominantly funded with debt.

It said that the Group, in which there is “little evidence of promoter equity capital injections”, could spiral into a debt trap in the worst-case scenario.

In the past week the Adani group sent shockwaves across India after its media arm AMG Media Networks (AMNL) acquired a holding company that owns 29.18 per cent of news organisation New Delhi Television (NDTV).

The move allows Mr Adani to buy another 26 per cent of the news conglomerate through an open offer triggered by regulations of the country’s securities watchdog.

NDTV has operated in India for decades and is said to be part of a shrinking news space critical of the current government in New Delhi. Reports about the acquisition prompted criticism last week that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who is seen as being a close friend of Mr Adani, was further trying to stifle independent media.