Few outside of India had heard of Gautam Adani a couple of years ago. Now the Indian tycoon, a college dropout who first tried his luck as a diamond trader before turning to coal and eventually building one of the world’s largest conglomerates, has become the world’s third-richest person.
It is the first time that an Asian has entered the top three of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index: his fellow citizen Mukesh Ambani and China’s Jack Ma have never made it that far. With a fortune of $137.4 billion ($199 billion), Adani has overtaken France’s Bernard Arnault and is now behind only Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos of the US in the rankings.
Adani, 60, has spent the last few years expanding his conglomerate from coal to ports, venturing into everything from data centers to cement, media and alumina. The group now owns India’s largest private sector port and airport operator, urban gas distributor and coal miner. While its Carmichael mine in Australia has been criticized by environmentalists, it pledged in November to invest $70 billion in green energy to become the world’s largest producer of renewable energy.
But concerns are growing about exponential growth. Adani’s deal spree has been predominantly debt-funded and her empire is “deeply over-leveraged,” CreditSights said in a report. In the worst case, that could lead to a default, the Fitch Group unit warned.
Some lawmakers and market watchers have also raised concerns about opaque shareholder structures and a lack of analyst coverage at Adani Group companies. Yet stocks have soared, some of them up more than 1,000 percent since 2020, with valuations exceeding 750 times earnings, as the tycoon focused on areas Prime Minister Narendra Modi sees as crucial to meeting targets. India long term.
The shift to green energy and infrastructure has won investment from firms including Warburg Pincus and TotalEnergies SE, helping Adani enter the echelons once dominated by US tech tycoons. Coal’s surge in recent months has further fueled his rise.
In total, Adani has added $60.9 billion to her fortune in 2022 alone, five times more than anyone else. He first overtook Ambani as the richest Asian in February, became a hundred billionaire in April and overtook Microsoft’s Bill Gates as the world’s fourth-richest person last month.
Adani was able to overtake some of the world’s richest American billionaires in part because they recently boosted their philanthropy. Gates said in July that he was transferring $20 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, while Warren Buffett has already donated more than $35 billion to the charity.