Indian Billionaire Surges to Threaten Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos

Elon Musk-Jeff Bezos; Jeff Bezos-Elon Musk: this is the duo that has dominated the ranking of the biggest fortunes in the world for two years now. 

The Tesla  (TSLA)  co-founder and Amazon  (AMZN)  founder are the two richest men in the world, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index

Their dominance was further reinforced by the stock market rise of their respective companies. Tesla, of which Musk is a major individual shareholder, is the sixth largest company in the world with a market capitalization of $864 billion at last check. Amazon, of which Bezos is now only executive chairman, is the fifth largest company in the world with a market value of $1.31 trillion.

This stock market success of the two companies is also that of their shareholders. Musk’s fortune is estimated at $247 billion as of August 30 by Bloomberg Billionaires Index, while Bezos’ is estimated at $152 billion.

More than $66 Billion in Eight Months

Now, however, the two tech tycoons, who also compete in the conquest of space via their respective companies SpaceX and Blue Origin, have to watch out for a new rival who is climbing very quickly in the world’s wealthiest rankings. This is the Indian billionaire and businessman Gautam Adani.

Adani has just surpassed big names in turn to become the third richest person in the world. His wealth is now valued at $143 billion, just $9 billion less than Bezos. He has passed the French businessman Bernard Arnault, CEO of the luxury empire LVMH  (LVMHF) , who had been third for many months. Arnault’s fortune is estimated at $137 billion, which relegates him to 4th place. Bill Gates, co-founder of software giant Microsoft  (MSFT)  is 5th with a fortune of $116 billion.

Of all the top ranking billionaires, only Adani and fellow Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, in ninth place, are the only ones to have increased their wealth since January. Adani’s wealth has indeed increased by $66.2 billion in eight months, while that of his countryman has gone up by “only” $4 billion to $94 billion.

Conversely, Musk and Bezos saw their fortunes drop by $24 billion and $40 billion, respectively. At the rate of his rise, Adani could overtake Bezos in the coming weeks.

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Who Is Adani?

Adani is a businessman who does not enjoy great notoriety in the West. This 60-year-old man is an industrial founder of the Adani conglomerate which he founded in 1988 as a commodity trading firm. His net wealth rose from less than $6 billion in March 2020 to nearly $80 billion in mid-2021 before experiencing a few upheavals and soaring again in recent months to exceed $130 billion.

At the beginning of the year, he became the richest person in Asia ahead of Ambani. Adani has grown his conglomerate by acquiring companies through debt. The Adani group, now valued at $240 billion, diversified from mines, ports and power plants into airports, data centers and defense. It owns a dozen commercial ports, is present in coal, electricity, renewable energies and made a hostile offer last week for Indian media giant New Delhi Television.

The Adani group recently entered the cement sector by buying assets of cement manufacturer Holcim in India and is also looking to set up an aluminum factory. 

Born in 1962 in Ahmedabad in western India, Adani comes from a modest family of seven children with a small textile merchant father. This self-made man started working at the age of 16 at the diamond dealer Mahendra Brothers where he was responsible for sorting the precious stones.

In the early 1980s, he joined his brother in a plastics company where he quickly took over as head of operations. The company started to experience rapid growth with the development of new plastics such as PVC. In the early 90s, he diversified the activity of what has since become Adani Enterprises into metals and textiles.

It was in 1995 that the Adani family took on a new dimension by obtaining the management of the port of Mundra, on the Arabian Sea, which became the country’s first commercial port. Since then Adani bought ports, airports and expanded in electricity, coal and renewable energies businesses. 

The question that torments financial circles is whether the indebted Adani conglomerate is not more fragile than it seems since the company executed most of its acquisitions with debt.

“If you look at the rated entities (of Adani group), like Adani Ports, their business fundamental is fairly solid. Port business is generating healthy cash flows. Where, probably, the risk could lie for the group is, some of the acquisitions it is doing. Some of the recent acquisitions that we are seeing are largely debt-funded and that is taking away the headroom,” warned S&P Global Ratings Senior director Abhishek Dangra.

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