India’s Mukesh Ambani regains Asia’s richest person title from Zhong Shanshan

Indian billionaire businessman Mukesh Ambani is back to being the wealthiest person in Asia after leapfrogging Zhong Shanshan of China.

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Despite a brutal week for markets, Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd, India’s most valuable company by market value, was relatively unscathed as it informed it would spin off its oil-to-chemicals business into an independent unit. With a net worth of about $80 billion, Ambani again took the first spot from Zhong, whose bottled-water company tanked a record 20% this week. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the Chinese tycoon took a blow of more than $22 billion from a peak just last week and is now worth $76.6 billion.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Jack Ma as Asia’s richest person before Ambani spent most of the past two years leading the ranking. The listing of two companies (a bottled water company and a vaccine maker) put Zhong on the map. By the end of December 2020, he grabbed the title from Ambani, and by early 2021, Zhong was the sixth-wealthiest person on Earth, surpassing American investor Warren Buffett. Zhong’s bottled water company, Nongfu Spring Co., more than tripled from its initial public offering to a peak in January as investors flocked to consumer shares, while Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise Co., his vaccine maker, surged as much as 3,757%.

Hong Kong and Chinese stock markets being among the world’s biggest decliners this week saw Zhong’s company’s rally fading. Wantai’s posted a record monthly plunge, while Nongfu shares have erased their gains for the year.

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Ambani has focused on moving away from energy and pivoting his empire to tech and e-commerce. Last year, Reliance’s digital and retail units stakes worth $27 billion were sold to investors including Google and Facebook Inc., lifting his fortune by $18 billion. According to a report by Bloomberg, “the spinoff announced this week of the oil-to-chemicals unit — which accounted for more than 60% of the conglomerate’s revenue in the last fiscal year — would help the tycoon bring in more investors and expedite a proposed stake sale to Saudi Arabian Oil Co.”

Asia’s richest person is not the only title facing the swapping fate. Tesla CEO Elon Musk became the world’s richest person at the start of January before seeing his shares drop earlier this month, and Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos capitalizing by regaining the No. 1 spot. Musk lost $15 billion on Monday alone after tweeting that the prices of cryptocurrencies seemed high — just two weeks after Tesla said it invested $1.5 billion in Bitcoin.

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