Adani added $60.9 billion to its fortune in 2022 alone, five times more than anyone else.
by Alexander Sazonov
Few outside India had heard of Gautam Adani a few years ago. Now the Indian businessman, who dropped out of college and first tried his luck as a diamond trader before turning to coal, has become the third richest man in the world.
It is the first time an Asian has entered the top three of its Billionaires Index Bloomberg – fellow Indian Mukesh Ambani and Chinese Jack Ma never reached that high. With a fortune of $137.4 billion, Adani has overtaken France’s Bernard Arnault and now trails only Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos of the US in the ranking.
Adani, 60, has spent the past few years expanding his group into everything from data centers to cement and aluminum trading. The group now owns India’s largest private operator of ports and airports, largest natural gas distributor and largest coal mine. Although Australia’s Carmichael mine 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.
As his empire has expanded into one of the world’s largest conglomerates fueling record profits, concerns have grown about rapid growth. Adani’s “boom” of deals was largely financed with loans and its empire is “excessively leveraged”, CreditSights said in a report this month.
Some lawmakers and market observers have also raised concerns about opaque shareholder structures and a lack of analyst coverage of Adani Group companies. But shares have soared – some of them more than 1,000% since 2020, with valuations as high as 750 times earnings – as the tycoon focused on areas that Prime Minister Narendra Modi sees as critical to achieving its long-term goals of India.
The shift to green energy and infrastructure has secured investment from the likes of Warburg Pincus and TotalEnergies SE, helping Adani enter ranks previously dominated by US tech tycoons. The increase in the price of coal in recent months has further increased its rise.
In total, Adani added $60.9 billion to its wealth in 2022 alone, five times more than anyone else. He first surpassed Ambani as the richest Asian in February, amassed a fortune of $100 billion in April and surpassed Microsoft Corp.’s Bill Gates. as the fourth richest man in the world last month.
Adani has been able to edge out some of the wealthiest US billionaires, in part because they have recently stepped up their philanthropy. Gates said in July that he would transfer $20 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, while Warren Buffett has already donated more than $35 billion to the charity.
The two, along with Gates’ ex-wife Melinda French Gates, launched the Giving Pledge in 2010, pledging to give away the majority of their wealth in their lifetime. The billions of dollars spent on charity have pushed them lower on Bloomberg’s wealth rankings. Gates is now fifth and Buffett sixth.
Adani, too, has increased its philanthropic spending. He pledged in June to donate $7.7 billion to social causes to celebrate his 60th birthday.