Alibaba founder Jack Ma unseats Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani as Asia’s richest man after US$5.8 billion rout

Indian energy tycoon Mukesh Ambani is no longer Asia’s richest man, relinquishing the title to Jack Ma after oil prices collapsed along with global stocks.

The rout, exacerbated by mounting fears that the spread of the novel coronavirus will thrust the world into a recession, erased US$5.8 billion from Ambani’s net worth on Monday and dropped him to No. 2 on the list of Asia’s richest people, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group Holding – which owns the South China Morning Post – relinquished the No. 1 ranking in mid-2018, but is back on top with a US$44.5 billion fortune, about US$2.6 billion more than Ambani.
Oil plunged the most in 29 years as Saudi Arabia and Russia vowed to pump more in a struggle for market share just as the coronavirus is spurring the first decline in demand in more than a decade. That raises questions about whether Ambani’s flagship Reliance Industries will be able to cut net debt to zero by early 2021, as he has pledged. The plan hinges on a proposal to sell a stake in the group’s oil and petrochemicals division to Saudi Arabian Oil Company, the world’s biggest producer.

While the coronavirus has curtailed some of Alibaba’s businesses, the damage has been mitigated by increased demand for its cloud computing services and mobile apps.

Reliance Industries, by comparison, has no such silver lining. The Indian company’s shares plunged 12 per cent on Monday, the most since 2009, extending this year’s decline to 26 per cent. Alibaba’s American depositary receipts have slipped 6.8 per cent so far in 2020.

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