Asia’s richest man has entered a new league of wealth.
The net worth of Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd., has jumped to $64.5 billion, making him the only Asian tycoon in the exclusive club of the world’s top 10 richest people, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He overtook Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp. and France’s Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the wealthiest woman, to reach the No. 9 spot.
Ambani, who owns 42% of Reliance, has benefited from a flurry of investment into the company’s digital unit, Jio Platforms Ltd., that Reliance said has made it net-debt free ahead of a March 2021 target. The shares of the Indian conglomerate have doubled from a low in March, just as other billionaires on the list have been hit by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. They climbed another 1.2% as of 9:37 a.m. in Mumbai Monday.
While the Indian economy “has been nearly decimated” during the lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19, “Mr. Ambani’s companies (particularly the telecom giant Jio) have prospered, and his personal wealth has increased substantially,” said Jayati Ghosh, chair of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
A media representative for Reliance declined to comment on Ambani’s fortune.
The rise of the 63-year-old as India heads for its worst-ever recession is a reminder of the nation’s deep economic divide, in which the top 10% hold more than three-quarters of the total wealth, and where most new fortune creation stays in the hands of the richest 1%. Ambani lives in a 27-story mansion in Mumbai, known as Antilia, that has three rooftop helipads, parking for 168 cars, a 50-seat movie theater, a grand ballroom with crystal chandeliers, three floors of Babylon-inspired hanging gardens, a yoga studio, and a health spa and fitness center.
While a crash in oil prices caused uncertainty in a stake sale of Reliance’s oil and chemicals division, in just two months Jio managed to attract some $15 billion — more than half the investment into telecom companies worldwide this year. Facebook Inc., General Atlantic, Silver Lake Partners, KKR & Co. and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund are among those trying to get a slice of one of the world’s fastest-growing online commerce markets. A June report by Sanford C. Bernstein predicted that Jio is likely to capture 48% of India’s mobile subscriber market share by 2025.
In the latest potential deal slated to bolster Ambani’s e-commerce ambitions, Reliance is close to acquiring stakes in some units of Future Group, which already has a partnership with Amazon.com Inc., people familiar with the matter have said.