Gautam Adani, Asia’s richest man, reveals his global media ambitions | Rare Techy
Gautam Adani wants to build a global news brand as a sign of influence that expands and amplifies the international ambitions of Asia’s richest man.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Financial Times, Adani highlighted investment plans ranging from launching “super apps” in India to bidding for power projects in Israel. He also defended the group’s controversial Carmichael coal mine in Australia but admitted he would not have gone ahead with its development if he had known how much opposition it would cause.
His comments show how ports-to-power conglomerate Adani – which has wielded considerable influence as a founding champion of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s development agenda – is expanding overseas and pushing into the media and consumer sectors.
“Why can’t you support a media outlet to become independent and have a global footprint?” asked the billionaire, whose new media unit launched a hostile takeover of Indian broadcaster NDTV in August. “India does not have a single one [outlet] compared to the Financial Times or Al Jazeera.
Speaking at the group’s skyscraper headquarters outside Ahmedabad, the largest city in his home state of Gujarat, Adani said he saw the purchase of NDTV as a “responsibility” rather than a business opportunity.
Adani Group’s still incomplete takeover bid has fueled a debate in India over media independence, with the tycoon seen as aligned with the Modi government while NDTV is known for broadcasting critical voices.
“Independence means that if the government does something wrong, you say it’s wrong,” Adani said. “But at the same time, you have to have courage when the government does the right thing every day. You also have to say that.”
He said the cost of creating an international media group would be “negligible” for the conglomerate and he had invited NDTV co-founder Prannoy Roy to remain as chairman. Adani’s AMG Media Network also bought a stake this year in business news platform BQ Prime, formerly BloombergQuint.
Adani’s share price surge this year has baffled some analysts as it has increased its fortunes faster than other billionaires. Now worth $136bn, according to Forbes, Adani jostles with tech tycoon Elon Musk and luxury mogul Bernard Arnault at the top of the global wealth rankings.
In contrast to some other Indian tycoons, Adani is self-made. From a commodity trading firm founded in 1988, he has expanded his business interests to become India’s largest private player in infrastructure, with 13 ports and eight airports.
Opposition politicians say Adani benefits from close ties with Modi, a fellow Gujarati. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat for 13 years before becoming prime minister in 2014. Adani denied allegations of impropriety but claimed the group was aligned with the government’s development priorities. He said investors are buying “India’s success story”.
The Adani Group is also India’s largest private coal business, operating mines and coal-fired power plants. But with the Indian government now pushing an ambitious switch to renewables, the conglomerate has vowed to invest $70bn by 2030 in technology from solar panel manufacturing to green hydrogen production.
As well as launching a “super app” in the next three to six months to connect Adani airport passengers with other Adani Group services, Adani said it plans to invest more than $4bn in a petrochemical complex at its sprawling Mundra port and special economic zone. . in Gujarat.
“The demand is huge, and India doesn’t have enough hydrocarbons,” Adani said. He wants to build an ethane cracker, part of an industrial process for turning natural gas into plastic, and a coal-to-PVC plant already under construction.
Adani refused to move into petrochemicals will open serious competition with fellow billionaire Mukesh Ambani, whose Reliance Industries established an ethane cracker in 2017. “There is no competition,” he said. “India is a huge growth market and everyone is welcome.”
Adani also aims for wider international expansion, winning a port contract in Sri Lanka and building a power plant in India to supply neighboring Bangladesh.
He said the group is “eyeing up entering the power sector in Israel” and “possibility” of bidding for gas-based power projects. Adani Ports, along with Israel’s Gadot Group, bought the concession for Haifa’s second largest commercial port for $1.2 billion in July.
Describing the east coast of Africa as a “big opportunity”, Adani said he will consider investing in Africa “mining and metal business”, while his company is assessing the feasibility of hydrogen production in Morocco and Oman. Adani and French oil company TotalEnergies signed a $50bn green hydrogen partnership this year.
Adani has argued that high energy prices underscore the importance of the group’s controversial Carmichael coal mine project in Australia’s Galilee Basin, insisting that high-quality coal is an energy-efficient way to meet rising demand in India.
But he added that with hindsight, given the fierce opposition from environmental activists, he would not have developed it. Adani has struggled to finance and insure the mine and despite having approval for 60 million tonnes of coal annually, it says the mine currently produces only 17 million tonnes.
“If we had realized that there would be a lot of objections, that a lot of resistance would come, we wouldn’t have been able to go in. We wouldn’t have done it,” Adani said. “But you have to understand that once you have spent $2-3bn, you have received all the appropriate approval and norms, you have the support of the government on both sides, you have the support of the local community – do you think any company should walk because someone has objections?”