Mukesh Ambani loses top spot as India's wealthiest to Dilip Shanghvi

India's oil refining tycoon Mukesh Ambani. He has lost the position of being the wealthiest man in India to Mr Dilip Shanghvi, founder and managing director of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
India's oil refining tycoon Mukesh Ambani. He has lost the position of being the wealthiest man in India to Mr Dilip Shanghvi, founder and managing director of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE (Bloomberg) - Dilip Shanghvi, who started an Indian pharmaceutical company more than three decades ago selling a single drug, has overtaken oil refining tycoon Mukesh Ambani to become India's richest person.

Mr Shanghvi is founder and managing director of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, India's biggest drugmaker by market value. He had a net worth of US$21.6 billion (S$29.55 billion), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Mr Ambani, who's been the country's wealthiest since the inception of the Bloomberg index in March 2012, had a fortune of US$21.5 billion as of the end of the trading day on Wednesday.

Mr Shanghvi started his company after graduating from the University of Calcutta in 1982, and the firm emerged as a pharmaceutical giant through investments in research for new drugs and a string of acquisitions. The stock surged 6.7 per cent to a record 1,006.30 rupees at the close in Mumbai on Wednesday, while Mr Ambani's Reliance Industries, which runs the world's biggest refining complex, lost 1.4 per cent.

"There's a lot of up and coming new money which is extremely big and powerful, and health care is definitely part of that conversation," said Mr Mark Matthews, head of Asia research and a managing director of Bank Julius Baer in Singapore.

Sun Pharma's 2.1 trillion rupee (S$46.54 billion) market capitalisation makes it larger than its three biggest Indian competitors combined.

Mr Shanghvi, who's also the world's richest pharmaceutical billionaire, added US$4.5 billion to his fortune this year, making him fourth-wealthiest in Asia, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Mr Ambani's net worth has increased US$153 million since the start of 2015.

The majority of Mr Shanghvi's wealth comes from his 60.8 per cent stake in Sun Pharma. He also owns shares of Sun Pharma Advanced Research, Natco Pharma and Bio Light Israeli Life Sciences Investments.

Last month, the billionaire agreed to purchase 23 per cent of Suzlon Energy, Asia's second-biggest wind-turbine maker, for 18 billion rupees. In April 2014, Sun Pharma also agreed to buy competitor Ranbaxy Laboratories for US$3.2 billion from Japan's Daiichi Sankyo.

Sun Pharmaceutical shares have risen 22 per cent this year, compared with the 0.4 per cent decline in Reliance. The benchmark S&P BSE Sensex index added 6.8 per cent.

The value of Reliance Gas Transportation Infrastructure, a closely held pipeline company owned by Mr Ambani, has also been hurt by a glut in the oil market that drove crude prices almost 50 per cent lower in 2014.

Mr Ambani is the elder son of the late Dhirubhai Ambani, who founded Reliance Commercial to trade spices and yarn in 1959 and built an empire with businesses ranging from textiles to petrochemicals.

Mr Ambani and his brother Anil fought for control of the group after their father died in 2002 without leaving a will. They split the family business three years later in a settlement brokered by their mother.

Mr Anil Ambani has a fortune of US$5.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg index.

"There's a shift in the driver of economies away from heavy industries, deep-cyclical industries, the kind of things that powered the global economy in the past 10 years," Mr Matthews said. "Going forward, the growth drivers are softer: technology, health care, the more innovative things."