India’s Ambani is back on top of Asia’s richest list

By Sayujya S, Desk Reporter
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Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani is back to being the wealthiest person in Asia.

Despite a volatile week for markets, Mr. Ambani’s Reliance Industries was relatively unscathed as it said it would spin off its oil-to-chemicals business into an independent unit.

With a net worth of about $80 billion, he is once again richer than Zhong Shanshan, whose bottled-water company dropped a record 20 percent this week. The Chinese tycoon is worth $76.6 billion, down more than $22 billion from a peak just last week, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Mr. Ambani spent most of the past two years leading the ranking of Asia’s richest people, taking over from China’s Jack Ma, the co founder of Alibaba group. Then the listing of two companies put Mr. Zhong on the list. He grabbed the title from Mr. Ambani at the end of December and by early 2021 was the sixth-wealthiest person on Earth, surpassing American business magnate Warren Buffett.

Mr. Zhong’s Nongfu Spring more than tripled from its initial public offering (IPO) to a peak in January as investors flocked to consumer shares, while his vaccine maker, Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise, surged as much as 3,757 percent.

But the spike faded as the Hong Kong and Chinese stock markets were among the world’s biggest decliners this week. The shares of Nongfu have lost their gains for the year, while Wantai’s posted a record monthly drop.

Tech and eCommerce focus

Meanwhile, Mr. Ambani has focused on pivoting his empire to tech and eCommerce, moving away from energy. Last year, he sold stakes in Reliance’s digital and retail units worth $27 billion to investors including American tech giants Google and Facebook, lifting his fortune by $18 billion.

The spinoff announced this week of the oil-to-chemicals unit, which accounted for more than 60 percent of the conglomerate’s revenue in the last fiscal year, will help the tycoon bring in more investors and expedite a proposed stake sale to Saudi Arabian Oil Company, Aramco.

Mr. Zhong and Mr. Ambani are not the only two swapping titles lately. Electric car maker Tesla’s Elon Musk became the world’s richest man at the start of January before eCommerce giant Amazon.’s Jeff Bezos regained the No. 1 spot earlier this month. Mr. Musk lost $15 billion on 22nd February alone after he tweeted that the prices of cryptocurrencies seemed high, just two weeks after Tesla said it invested $1.5 billion in Bitcoin.

Read More: Ongoing spat between Bezos and Ambani is keenly watched by India’s future foreign investors