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Gautam Adani’s new roadmap: $4-billion petrochemical complex, global news brand, super app and more

Adani also aims for broader international expansion, winning port contracts in Sri Lanka and building a power plant in India to supply neighbouring Bangladesh.

Gautam Adani’s new roadmap: $4-billion petrochemical complex, global news brand, super app and more
Gautam Adani (File photo: Reuters)

In a sign of his vaulting international ambition, Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani has said that he wants to build a global news brand, bid for power projects in Israel, launch a super app in India and invest over $4 billion in a petrochemical complex in Gujarat.

In a wide-ranging interview with Financial Times, Asia’s richest man asked: “Why can’t you support one media house to become independent and have a global footprint?” asked Adani, whose new media unit launched a hostile takeover of NDTV in August. “India does not have one single [outlet] to compare to Financial Times or Al Jazeera,” he said.

Adani said he saw the NDTV purchase as a “responsibility” rather than a business opportunity. “(Media) independence means if the government has done something wrong, you say it’s wrong. But at the same time, you should have courage when the government is doing the right thing every day. You have to also say that.”

He said the cost of creating an international media group would be “negligible” for the conglomerate and he had invited NDTV owner-founder Prannoy Roy to remain as the chair. Adani’s AMG Media Network also bought a stake this year in business news platform BQ Prime, formerly BloombergQuint.

On petrochemicals, Adani denied that moving into petrochemicals would open up serious competition with fellow billionaire Mukesh Ambani. “There is no competition,” he said. “India is a huge growth market and everybody is welcome.”

In the interview with FT, the coal-to-ports billionaire reaffirmed his group’s commitment to invest $70 billion in a clean energy value chain. Economic growth will likely mean India’s energy consumption will rise by 400% by 2050, and the country will undertake “an unparalleled” energy transition to cater for this demand, he said.

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Adani said India is expected to maintain its rapid pace of creating unicorns and startups that have more than a billion dollars in market value. In 2021, India added a unicorn every nine days, he said.

He also defended the group’s controversial Carmichael coal mine in Australia but admitted he would not have gone through with its development if he had known how much opposition it would spark.

On the Opposition politicians’ allegation that he has benefited from a close association with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Adani rejected allegations of impropriety but acknowledged his group aligned itself with the government’s development priorities. He said investors were buying into “India’s success story”.

Adani Group is also India’s largest private coal business, operating mines and coal-fired electricity plants. But with India’s government now pushing an ambitious switch to renewables, the conglomerate has vowed to invest $70 billin by 2030 in technologies from solar panel manufacturing to green hydrogen production.

“Huge demand is opening up, and India doesn’t have sufficient hydrocarbons,” Adani said.

He wants to build an ethane cracker, part of the industrial process to turn natural gas into plastics, alongside a coal-to-PVC plant already under construction.

Adani also aims for broader international expansion, winning port contracts in Sri Lanka and building a power plant in India to supply neighbouring Bangladesh.

He said the group is “eyeing up entering the power sector in Israel” and is “likely” to bid for a gas-based power project. Adani Ports, along with Israel’s Gadot Group, bought the concession for the country’s second-biggest commercial port in Haifa for $1.2 billion in July.

Describing the east coast of Africa as “a huge opportunity”, Adani said he would consider investing in the African “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 $50-billion green hydrogen partnership this year.

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First published on: 26-11-2022 at 01:15:00 am