04/08/2022, 17.39
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Modi's oligarch tops US$ 100 billion in wealth

by Giorgio Bernardelli

Gautam Adani joins Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos on Bloomberg's Billionaire Index. In the past two years, his fortune grew tenfold while India was reeling from the pandemic-induced economic crisis. The businessman from Gujarat has seen every door thrown open to him by the BJP government. At present, he is into both coal and renewable energy.

Milan (AsiaNews) – Gautam Adani has joined the 0 Billion Club, this according to the latest ranking by business media, marking the spectacular rise of the Gujarat-based tycoon who made his fortune from coal and the privatisations of Indian ports and airports.

In its latest ranking, released earlier this month, Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index has Adani among the world’s 11 centibillionaires, a very exclusive club that includes people like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bernard Arnauld.

Forbes puts him in 9th position among the richest people in the world with an estimated net worth of US$ 109.8 billion.

What is particularly striking is the speed of Adani's rise. In June 2020 Bloomberg that estimated his wealth was “only” US$ 10 billion; now he has overtaken the other Indian billionaire, Mukesh Ambani, the largest shareholder of Reliance Industries, a conglomerate that includes petrochemicals.

To put it differently, during the period in which India experienced a very serious economic crisis caused by the pandemic, the richest man in the country saw his fortune increase ten-fold. He started 2022 by adding US$ 28 billion of new wealth.

These figures are impressive considering that Gautam Adani is not just any entrepreneur; in fact, he is well known for his very close ties to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Born 1962 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, a state where Modi, a Hindu nationalist, built his political career at the helm of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a young Adani left university for the diamond trade.

His fortune began to take off with plastics and continued when he won the rights to operate Mundra port, on the Arabian Sea.

Then in 2003, when Modi ended up in the eye of the storm over the bloody clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat that cost the lives of a thousand people, Adani firmly stood by his side, thus laying the grounds for his further rise.

When his friend Narendra Modi wont the 2014 Union elections, his businesses went through an unprecedented boom, facilitated by easy credits generously offered by Indian banks, certainly not insensitive to his unique position vis-à-vis the country’s new political masters.

Modi did the rest through privatisations, above all that of six profitable airports in 2018, relaxing the rules to allow companies without experience in the sector to bid. Adani, the billionaire with no history of running airports, bought up all six.

Similarly, his path in mining was eased, turning him into a global giant, especially in coal, so much so that his disputed project today is the great Carmichael mine, in Queensland (Australia).

The latter is still going ahead and is expected to deliver 60 million tonnes of coal a year despite the alarm raised by environmental groups who believe that it will damage Australia’s coral reef and the protests by aboriginal groups whose territories will be impacted.

In the meantime, mining continues to expand in India, and not only thanks to the BJP. Recently, the states of Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh – among the few now still governed by the Congress party – granted Adani the right to clear 1,130 hectares of forest land to extend the Parsa East and Kente Basan (PEKB) coal mine in Hasdeo Haranya Forest, the largest surviving contiguous forest area in central India.

The opposition by local tribal groups, who have always lived in these areas, has been fruitless. In 2015 Congress leader Rahul Gandhi himself had promised that the mine would not be widened but India’s coal race seems unstoppable and Adani’s conglomerate is always in the lead.

Still, this has not prevented Modi’s tycoon friend to diversify into lucrative renewable energy; in recent years, he has invested heavily in the sector with excellent returns on his investments.

Adani Green Energy today has one of the largest renewable portfolios with 20.4 gigawatts, one of the largest global in the world.

Just yesterday he raised US$ 2 billion in investment from the International Holding Company, based in the United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, the BJP’s chances of staying in power in New Delhi remain high, as evinced by the last election in Uttar Pradesh. For the centibillionaire, this is his main asset to keep rising in the world of global business.

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