Mukesh Ambani overtook Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma to become Asia’s richest person as he positions Reliance Industries Ltd
to disrupt the e-commerce space in India.
The chairman of India’s refining-to-telecoms conglomerate, Ambani was estimated to be worth $44.3bn on Friday with Reliance Industries rising 1.6% to a record Rs1,099.8, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Ma’s wealth stood at $44bn at the close of trade on Thursday in the US, where the company is listed.
Ambani has added $4bn to his fortune this year as Reliance doubled its petrochemicals capacity and investors cheered the success of his disruptive telecom upstart Reliance Jio Infocomm.
Earlier this month, the tycoon unveiled plans to leverage his 215mn telecom subscribers to expand his e-commerce offerings, taking on the likes of Amazon.com and Walmart.
Alibaba Group Holding’s Ma has lost $1.4bn in 2018.
“We need to broaden our horizon of expectation with Reliance,” said Nitin Tiwari, a Mumbai-based analyst at Antique Stock Broking. “They are in for something really transformational.”
Ambani, best known for executing large-scale projects, spearheaded construction of the world’s largest refining complex in Jamnagar, owns the most-widespread mobile data network globally, and claims to have India’s biggest as well as most-profitable retail firm.
At this month’s annual shareholders’ meeting, Ambani said Reliance saw its “biggest growth opportunity in creating a hybrid, online-to-offline new commerce platform,” involving the group’s Reliance Retail and Reliance Jio businesses. The "size of Reliance will more than double" by 2025, Ambani said at the meeting.
Jio will introduce a fiber-based broadband service across 1,100 Indian cities in August in what Ambani said would be the biggest greenfield fixed-line rollout anywhere in the world.
“Jio is the driver behind the surge in Reliance," said Deven Choksey, managing director at Mumbai-based KR Choksey Shares and Securities Pvt. “If the company is going to double profit a few years down the line, the stock price will also double, if not more," Choksey added.
A spokesman for Reliance didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment.