Elon Musk-Jeff Bezos; Jeff Bezos-Elon Musk: This is the duo that has dominated the rankings of the world’s greatest fortunes for two years.
The Tesla (TSLA) co-founder and Amazon (AMZN) founder are the two richest men in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Their dominance was further enhanced by the stock market surge 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 audit. 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 by Bloomberg Billionaires Index on Aug. 30, while Bezos’s is estimated at $152 billion.
More than $66 billion in eight months
Now, however, the two tech tycoons, who are also battling in the conquest of space through their respective companies SpaceX and Blue Origin, must watch out for a new rival who is climbing very quickly in the world’s richest rankings. This is Indian billionaire and businessman Gautam Adani.
Adani has just surpassed big names to become the third richest person in the world. His net worth is now valued at $143 billion, just $9 billion less than Bezos. He passed 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, relegating 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 billionaires, only Adani and fellow Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, are in ninth place, 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 compatriot has increased by “only” $4 billion to $94 billion.
Conversely, Musk and Bezos saw their fortunes plummet by $24 billion and $40 billion, respectively. At the pace of his rise, Adani could catch up with Bezos in the coming weeks.
Who is Adani?
Adani is a businessman who is not widely known 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 company. His net worth rose from less than $6 billion in March 2020 to nearly $80 billion in mid-2021, before going through some upheavals and rising again to over $130 billion in recent months.
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 to airports, data centers and defense. It owns a dozen commercial ports, has a presence in coal, electricity, renewables and last week made a hostile bid 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 also wants to set up an aluminum plant.
Born in 1962 in Ahmedabad in western India, Adani comes from a modest family of seven children with a small father in a textile merchant. This self-made man started working at the age of 16 at the diamond merchant Mahendra Brothers, where he was responsible for sorting the gemstones.
In the early eighties he started working with his brother in a plastics company, where he soon took over as manager. The company grew rapidly with the development of new plastics such as PVC. In the early 1990s, he diversified the activities of what has since become Adani Enterprises in metals and textiles.
In 1995, the Adani family took on a new dimension by acquiring the management of the port of Mundra on the Arabian Sea, which became the country’s first commercial port. Since then, Adani has bought ports and airports and expanded with electricity, coal and renewable energy companies.
The question plaguing financial circles is whether debt-ridden conglomerate Adani is more vulnerable than it appears, given that the company has made most of its acquisitions with debt.
“If you look at the rated entities (of the Adani group), such as Adani Ports, their business base is quite solid. The port activities generate healthy cash flows. Where the risk could probably lie for the group, some of the acquisitions are some of the recent acquisitions we’re seeing are largely debt-funded and that’s taking away the headroom,” warned S&P Global Ratings Senior Director Abhishek Dangra.