Elon Musk-Jeff Bezos; Jeff Bezos-Elon Musk: this is the duo that has dominated the ranking of the world’s richest people for two years now.
Their dominance was further enhanced by the rise in the stock market 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 the CEO, is the fifth largest company in the world with a market value of $1.31 trillion.
This stock market success of both companies also belongs to their shareholders. Musk’s net worth is estimated at $247 billion as of August 30 Bloomberg Billionaires Indexwhile Bezos’s is valued at $152 billion.
More than $66 billion in eight months
Now, however, the two tech moguls, who also compete in the conquest of space through their respective companies SpaceX and Blue Origin, have to watch out for a new rival who is rapidly climbing the ranks of the world’s richest. This is Indian billionaire and businessman Gautam Adani.
Adani has just overtaken big names in his turn to become the third richest person in the world. His fortune is now estimated at $143 billion, just $9 billion less than Bezos. He has overtaken French businessman Bernard Arnault, CEO of the luxury empire LVMH (LVMHF) , which was third for many months. Arno’s fortune is estimated at $137 billion, which puts him in 4th place. Bill Gates, co-founder of software giant Microsoft (MSFT) is 5th with a fortune of $116 billion.
Of all the top-ranked 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 did increase by $66.2 billion in eight months, while that of his compatriot increased by “only” $4 billion to $94 billion.
In contrast, Musk and Bezos saw their fortunes drop by $24 billion and $40 billion, respectively. With the speed of its rise, Adani could overtake Bezos in the coming weeks.
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Who is Adani?
Adani is a businessman who does not enjoy much fame in the West. The 60-year-old is the industrial founder of the Adani conglomerate, which he founded in 1988 as a commodity trading firm. His net worth rose from less than $6 billion in March 2020 to nearly $80 billion in mid-2021 before suffering a few shocks and rebounding in recent months to surpass $130 billion.
At the beginning of the year, he became the richest man in Asia, overtaking Ambani. Adani expanded his conglomerate by acquiring companies through debt. The Adani group, now valued at $240 billion, has diversified from mines, ports and power plants to airports, data centers and defence. It owns a dozen commercial ports, is present in coal, electricity, renewables and made a hostile bid last week for Indian media giant New Delhi Television.
The Adani group recently entered the cement sector by buying assets of cement maker Holcim in India and is also looking to set up an aluminum plant.
Born in 1962 in Ahmedabad in western India, Adani came 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 merchant Mahendra Brothers, where he was in charge of sorting gems.
In the early 1980s, he joined his brother at a plastics company, where he quickly became head of operations. The company began to develop rapidly with the development of new plastics such as PVC. In the early 1990s, he diversified the business of what has since become Adani Enterprises into metals and textiles.
In 1995, the Adani family acquired a new dimension by acquiring the management of Mundra Port, on the Arabian Sea, which became the country’s first commercial port. Since then, Adani has bought ports, airports and expanded its power, coal and renewables businesses.
The question plaguing financial circles is whether debt-laden conglomerate Adani is more fragile than it appears after the company made most of its acquisitions with debt.
“If you look at (Adani Group’s) valued entities like Adani Ports, the fundamentals of their business are quite solid. The port business generates stable cash flows. Where the risk to the group may possibly lie, some of the acquisitions address this. Some of the recent acquisitions we’re seeing are largely debt-financed, and that’s taking up space,” warned S&P Global Ratings senior director Abhishek Dangra.