Indian billionaire Gautam Adani has overtaken Bill Gates to become the world’s fourth-richest person.
The Indian tycoon has added $36bn to his fortune this year, more than anyone else, while Mr Gates’s has shrunk as he sped up his philanthropic giving and the pace at which he has sold off technology shares.
Mr Adani, who built his empire on agri-trading, coal and ports, has been moving up a wealth ranking traditionally dominated by US technology entrepreneurs.
He has been rapidly diversifying into green energy, airports, data centres, digital services and media, aligning his strategy with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nation-building agenda.
Companies in his eponymous group have attracted global investors, including France’s TotalEnergies and Warburg Pincus, boosting their shares.
The first-generation entrepreneur and college dropout, who started off with a company trading agricultural products in the late 1980s, has amassed almost all of his wealth in the past two years as his push to diversify intensified.
He became a centibillionaire in April, joining the elite club that includes tycoons such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
In November, he pledged to invest $70bn across the green energy value chain by 2030 — a commitment that is often criticised by environmentalists given his group’s investment in developing the Carmichael coal mine project in Australia.
Most recently, he has been exploring potential partnerships with Saudi Aramco, including the possibility of buying a stake in the petroleum company.
He also acquired Holcim’s cement businesses in India for $10.5bn and signed a pact with South Korea’s steel producer Posco to explore business opportunities.
In April, Adani Enterprises, the group’s flagship company, said it had established a new media subsidiary, signalling his ambitions to tap into the fast-growing local entertainment market.
His ascent up the wealth rankings has coincided with a philanthropic boost by some of the world’s richest people.
Mr Gates said earlier this month that he was sending $20bn to his foundation, which would more than cover the $15bn he and his former wife promised in 2021.
Last year’s pledge was accounted for in the wealth index when he made the announcement, and $5bn more was added to that liability for the new promise, dropping Mr Gates’s net worth to slightly below Mr Adani’s.
Warren Buffett, who has slipped into seventh spot on the ranking, has donated more than $35bn to the charity, including $3.1bn in June alone.
Mr Adani has also increased his charitable giving. In June, to mark his 60th birthday, he pledged to donate $7.7bn to a variety of social causes.