Home / Business / Adani becomes the world's second richest man after overtaking Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and luxury king Bernard Arnault

Adani becomes the world's second richest man after overtaking Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and luxury king Bernard Arnault

Sharp ascent by group shares drives tycoon's worth to $154.6 billion, ahead of Arnault who is now slightly behind at $153.3 billion
Gautam Adani
Gautam Adani
File picture

Paran Balakrishnan   |   Published 16.09.22, 01:30 PM

India’s infrastructure czar Gautam Adani has become the second richest man overtaking both Jeff Bezos, the creator of Amazon and luxury retail king Bernard Arnault.

The Forbes Real-Time Billionaires list reckons that Adani’s wealth had climbed to $154.6 billion, putting him ahead of Arnault who is now slightly behind at $153.3 billion. Last night Arnault had been slightly ahead of Adani.

 Bezos is now worth $149.7 billion. His wealth levels have been fluctuating within a narrow range for the last few weeks.

The self-made tycoon, who has close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is now around $1.3 billion ahead of Arnault but the rankings are changing swiftly.

The 60-year-old tycoon’s wealth has leaped by over $100 billion since the annual Forbes Rich List was published in March 2021. At that time Forbes estimated he was worth $50.5 billion.

The final push came Thursday after several Adani Group companies once again performed strongly on the stock market. One strong group performer, Adani Transmission, soared to a lifetime high of Rs 4,102 climbing Rs 123 on a day when the overall market fell steeply. Another company, Adani Green, also put in a sterling performance, climbing by Rs 50.

The Indian billionaire was just $400 million behind Bezos on Wednesday night but the final thrust that took him past the Amazon founder came even faster than most observers had expected.

But it will tough for Adani to become the world’s richest man. Elon Musk, who’s worth a staggering $265 billion, currently holds the crown as the world’s wealthiest man, according to the Forbes list. The share price of Musk’s Tesla Inc has zoomed stratospherically from $29.53 on January 3, 2020 to $299.99 currently.

Mukesh Ambani, who occupied the top spot as India’s richest man till recently, is now far behind Adani, in eighth position globally and worth $94.2 billion. Though far behind Adani, he’s still India’s second-richest man.

Amazingly, in March 2020, Adani was worth just $8.9 according to Forbes. Adani is believed to have had the fastest rise in the wealth charts and the greatest accumulation of wealth in the world in the last two years.

Earlier, the Bloomberg Wealth Index, which also monitors the worth of the world’s richest people, had placed Adani in the third position, but behind Bezos. The Bloomberg list now has Bezos still ahead in the second spot, valued at $152 billion. According to the Bloomberg Wealth Index, Adani is now worth $145.

Forbes slotted Arnault in second position last night. But in the Bloomberg list, by contrast, Arnault is far behind both Bezos and Adani and worth $135 billion.

Both lists use slightly different calculations which is why they have different totals for all the people on their list. However, Forbes, which has been keeping tabs on the wealth of the world’s richest people for 36 years, is considered the bible on wealth assessment.

Adani has been on a dealmaking frenzy in recent months. In May he sealed a $10.5 billion deal to buy two of India’s top cement companies Gujarat Ambuja and ACC from the Swiss Holcim Group. The deal automatically made him the country’s second-largest cement-maker. Simultaneously, he announced huge expansion plans that will put him in tight competition with Kumar Birla’s UltraTech Cement for the industry’s top spot.

Then, in one week in August, he bought power generator DB Power for Rs 7,200 crore. And one group company, Adani Logistics closed a deal to buy Navkar Corporation’s inland container depots in Gujarat for Rs 835 crore.

Gautam Adani earlier this week said the group would invest $70 billion to build three new giga-factories in coming years to boost its presence in green energy.

The Adani Group companies have been the star performers on the stock market in a year when most other companies have barely risen. For instance, Adani Green has climbed 107.99 per cent in the last year and an extraordinary 4,564 per cent in the last three years. Its price-to-earnings (PE) ratio is also at a sky-high 767.11.

Similarly, Adani Transmission has climbed 85 per cent in the last six months and it has an amazingly high PE ratio of 472.70

Adani Transmission has given a return of an incredibly strong stock return of 1,588.52 per cent over the last three years. By contrast, the Nifty 100 gave investors a three-year return of 64.69 per cent. And the BSE Power Index, made up of all companies in the sector, has given investors a return of 168.44 over three years.

Gautam Adani is the lone billionaire out of the top ten globally whose fortunes are followed by Bloomberg whose fortune hasn’t fallen this year.

Interestingly, domestic institutional investors (DIIs) hold few shares in Adani Green or Adani Transmission despite their strong stock-market performances. The DIIs combined barely hold 0.98 per cent of Adani Green. By comparison, foreign institutional investors hold 15 per cent. On June 30, the promoters held 60.50 per cent of the company.

In Adani Transmission, the promoters have a 74.92 per cent stake. Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) have a 20.57 per cent holding and DIIs a mere 3.22 per cent.

The Fitch Group’s debt-research unit CreditSights recently report said that the group was heavily over-leveraged and warned that, “In a worst case scenario, ambitious debt-funded growth plans could eventually spiral into a massive debt trap and possibly culminate in a distressed situation or default of one or more companies, which may impact the broad Indian markets and economy,”  

The Adani Group responded to Fitch, saying it had reduced its debt levels by more than half and that these were within safe limits.

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