Asia’s richest man sees his wealth surge by US$17bil

(SCMP) – It’s been a good year for Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani. The Indian tycoon added almost US$18 billion to his wealth, the most in Asia, taking his net worth to US$61.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

In comparison, Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma’s net worth grew US$11 billion, while Jeff Bezos lost US$13.6 billion. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

The surge in Ambani’s fortune this year was fuelled by a 40 per cent jump in the shares of his Reliance Industries, a conglomerate that is pivoting more towards consumer offerings than its core oil refining and petrochemicals businesses. The gain in the stock is almost triple the gains for India’s benchmark S&P BSE Sensex index.

Investors are piling money on Reliance, betting newer businesses such as telecommunications and retail could soon unlock value. With a goal of building a local e-commerce giant to challenge the likes of in India, Ambani has spent almost US$50 billion – mostly debt – on a wireless carrier that has become India’s No. 1 within three years of debut.