The Indian coal mining tycoon Gautam Adani has become Asia’s richest person thanks to a push into green energy that has boosted his fortune to $88.5bn.
Adani has overtaken fellow countryman Mukesh Ambani to enter the top 10 of the world’s richest people, according to figures from Forbes and Bloomberg, after seeing his personal fortune rise by $12bn in the past year.
Among the mega-rich whom Adani has leapfrogged to reach the world top 10 are Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who slipped down the table several places last week after losing $30bn of his personal fortune.
Although Adani has become the face of big coal around the world with its pursuit of the hugely controversial Carmichael mine project in Australia, the mogul’s ascent into the top echelons of world billionaires is down to his expansion of green investments.
His Adani Group controls the port of Mundra, India’s largest, in the mogul’s home state of Gujarat and he also owns 74% of Mumbai international airport.
But his push into green energy has paid off handsomely in the past year with the listed company Adani Green Energy now his most valuable after its share price almost doubled in the past 12 months.
The group is in the process of ploughing $70bn into green energy projects by 2030 with the aim of becoming the world’s largest renewable-energy producer.
Adani found his ambitions dovetailed with those of Indian prime minister and fellow Gujarati, Narendra Modi, who leveraged India’s huge uptake in solar power to map out more ambitious goals for cutting carbon emissions at the Glasgow climate conference in November.
India plans to reach a target of 500 gigawatts of non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030 and that 50% of electricity capacity would come from renewables by the same point. It plans to be net-zero by 2070.
Overseas investors in Adani and India’s solar revolution include the French oil company Total, which last year bought 20% of Adani Green Energy.
“The Adani Group has spotted and entered all the happening sectors at the right time, which has appealed to a select band of foreign portfolio investors,” Deepak Jasani, head of retail research at Mumbai-based brokerage HDFC Securities Ltd, told Bloomberg. “The sectors are capital-intensive and the company has faced little difficulty in raising funds to expand.”
Despite the greener outlook for Adani, the group is still pressing ahead with the giant Queensland mine in the face of fierce resistance from a rainbow coalition of anti-fossil fuel activists, biodiversity conservationists and Indigenous groups.
The bitter battle over the mine has seen a succession of on-site protests, legal battles, and the use of a private investigator by the company to secretly photograph the family of activists.