India's Mukesh Ambani is again richest Asian as China's Zhong Shanshan loses US$22 billion

Mr Mukesh Ambani spent most of the past two years leading the ranking of Asia's richest people. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - India's Mr Mukesh Ambani is back to being the wealthiest person in Asia.

Despite a brutal week for markets, his Reliance Industries was relatively unscathed as it said it would spin off its oil-to-chemicals business into an independent unit. With a net worth of about US$80 billion (S$106.6 billion), Mr Ambani is again richer than Mr Zhong Shanshan, whose bottled-water company tanked a record 20 per cent this week.

The Chinese tycoon is worth US$76.6 billion, down more than US$22 billion from a peak just last week, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Mr Ambani spent most of the past two years leading the ranking of Asia's richest people, taking over from Alibaba Group's Jack Ma.

Then the listing of two companies put Mr Zhong on the map: He grabbed the title from Mr Ambani at the end of December and by early 2021 was the sixth-wealthiest person on earth, surpassing Mr Warren Buffett.

Mr Zhong's Nongfu Spring more than tripled from its initial public offering to a peak in January as investors flocked to consumer shares, while his vaccine maker, Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise, surged as much as 3,757 per cent.

But the rally faded as the Hong Kong and Chinese stock markets were among the world's biggest decliners this week. Nongfu shares have erased their gains for the year, while Wantai's posted a record monthly plunge.

Mr Ambani has focused on pivoting his empire to tech and e-commerce, moving away from energy. Last year, he sold stakes in Reliance's digital and retail units worth US$27 billion to investors including Google and Facebook, lifting his fortune by US$18 billion.

The spin-off announced this week of the oil-to-chemicals unit - which accounted for more than 60 per cent of the conglomerate's revenue in the last fiscal year - will help the tycoon bring in more investors and expedite a proposed stake sale to Saudi Arabian Oil.

Mr Zhong Shanshan's Nongfu Spring tanked a record 20 per cent this week. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Mr Zhong and Mr Ambani are not the only two swopping titles lately. Tesla Inc's Mr Elon Musk became the world's richest person at the start of January before Mr Jeff Bezos regained the No. 1 spot earlier this month as shares of the electronic-car maker fell.

Mr Musk lost US$15 billion on Monday alone after he tweeted that the prices of cryptocurrencies seemed high - just two weeks after Tesla said it invested US$1.5 billion in Bitcoin.

Since then, Mr Musk and Mr Bezos have swopped places twice more. The founder topped Mr Musk by a US$7 billion margin as at Friday.

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