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His fortune shrank by $80 billion last year. Now India’s Gautam Adani is back as Asia’s richest man

By Diksha Madhok, CNN

New Delhi (CNN) — Gautam Adani has had a good start to 2024.

After a tumultuous year, the Indian tycoon has just retaken his former position as Asia’s richest man, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The founder of the sprawling Adani Group is now worth $97.6 billion, which makes him the 12th wealthiest person on the planet.

The self-made industrialist and college dropout has gained more than $13 billion in net worth over the last two days, which has allowed him to overtake fellow countryman Mukesh Ambani as the continent’s biggest billionaire, the tracker said. Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries, is currently worth $97 billion.

Adani’s jump in wealth — the world’s largest this year, according to the index — comes almost 12 months after his ports-to-power conglomerate was accused by the US short-seller Hindenburg Research of “brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme.”

As a result of the scrutiny that followed those accusations, Adani’s fortune, which in September 2022 was worth more than that of Jeff Bezos, saw a stunning fall. At one point, the businessman lost over $80 billion following Hindenburg’s release of the report in January 2023.

His net worth recovered somewhat in the months that followed. At the end of last year, the Bloomberg index put his wealth at a healthy $84.3 billion, but that was still over 40% below the September 2022 level.

In its investigation, which Hindenburg said took two years to compile, the American firm had questioned the “sky-high valuations” of Adani companies and said their “substantial debt” put the entire group “on a precarious financial footing.” Short-sellers make money by betting that a company’s stock will fall.

The Adani Group published a 400-page rebuttal, calling the Hindenburg analysis “nothing but a lie.” But that did not prevent the stock market meltdown early last year, which hammered the conglomerate’s market value and Adani’s personal fortune. The country’s market regulator also launched a probe into the group.

But Adani stocks have rallied this week after India’s top court ordered the regulator to wrap up its investigation quickly and said that no further probes into the group were needed.

Adani welcomed the ruling, saying “truth has prevailed” and that his “humble contribution to India’s growth story will continue.” Shares in Adani Enterprises, his flagship firm, have risen almost 7% this week.

Seen as a close ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Adani has at times been compared to business magnates such as John D. Rockefeller and Cornelius Vanderbilt, who built vast monopoly businesses in the 1800s during America’s Gilded Age.

He began his career with diamond trading, before setting up a commodity trading business in 1988, which later evolved into Adani Enterprises. He now has firms in key sectors ranging from ports and power to media and clean energy.

Before the start of the Hindenburg saga, markets had relentlessly cheered for Adani, betting on his ability to grow his business in sectors that Modi has prioritized for development.

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