Adani overtakes Ambani as Asia’s richest man

The tycoon reclaims top spot as Supreme Court ruled in his group’s favor following stock-manipulation allegations

Gautam Adani, the Indian billionaire behind the Adani Group conglomerate, has again climbed to the top of Asia’s richest list, a day after his country’s Supreme Court refused to order a special probe into stock-market manipulation allegations against the company.

The industrialist is currently 12th position on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with a net worth of $97.6 billion, just one rung above fellow Indian magnate Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, who has a $97-billion personal fortune. Notably, Adani’s net worth rose by $7.67 billion in the last 24 hours, buoyed by a surge in the stock prices of his companies.

In a major relief to the 61-year-old, this week the apex court directed the nation’s stock-market regulator SEBI to complete an ongoing investigation into the group within a period of three months, instead of ordering a special investigation.

Allegations against the group were first made last year by American research firm Hindenburg, which described the firm as “highly overvalued” and claimed it engaged in “brazen stock manipulation.” In the wake of these claims, the value of the group dipped by about $145 billion in market value at its lowest point. At the time, Adani’s personal fortune was also dealt a serious blow.

On Wednesday, ahead of the Supreme Court verdict, Adani Group stocks rose by 18%, The Times of India reported. At the close of the day’s session all Adani stocks were in the green, led by Adani Energy Solutions, with a 12% surge.

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Founded in 1988 as a commodity trading company, Adani Group’s business interests have grown to include infrastructure, electricity generation and transmission, mining, natural gas, agriculture and food. The group is also India’s largest private port operator. 

In August last year, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), an international investigative platform, hit Adani Group with fresh allegations. The OCCRP report claimed that millions of dollars were invested in publicly traded shares via “opaque” Mauritius funds linked to business partners of the Adani family, another suspected stock-market violation.

Reacting to the allegation, the Adani Group linked the OCCRP to American billionaire-cum-philanthropist George Soros “who has openly declared his hostility against the Adani Group.” After the Hindenburg report was published, Soros had raised questions over Adani’s alleged ties to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Delivering its verdict on Thursday, the Supreme Court bench said that such reports by independent groups or investigators may “act as inputs before the SEBI. “However, they cannot be relied upon as conclusive proof of the inadequacy of the investigation by SEBI.”

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