Asia’s Richest Man Plans $10 Billion Push Into Green Energy

Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani unveiled an ambitious push into clean energy involving 750 billion rupees ($10.1 billion) of investment over three years, marking a new pivot for one of the world’s biggest fossil-fuel billionaires.

Reliance Industries Ltd., which gets 60% of its revenue from oil refining and petrochemicals, plans to spend 600 billion rupees on four “giga factories” to make solar modules, hydrogen, fuel cells and to build a battery grid to store electricity. An additional 150 billion rupees will be invested in value chain and other partnerships, Asia’s richest man told shareholders on Thursday.

The move toward green by the Mumbai-based giant, which reported an annual revenue of $63 billion, offers a glimpse of the new order awaiting some of the world’s major fossil-fuel producers. Global giants such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and TotalEnergies SE have been under pressure to pare their carbon footprint, as governments, investors and consumers join to fight climate change and global warming.

Speaking at the company’s virtual annual meeting, Ambani gave scant details of how he would execute the plan. He was ranked No. 4 among global fossil-fuel billionaires by Bloomberg Green last year. The $10 billion in green investment over three years compares with a Fitch Ratings’ estimate -- published Wednesday -- of $7.4 billion in annual average capital expenditure by the Reliance group through March 2025.

Shares of the company fell 2.4% as of 12:41 p.m. in Mumbai on Friday, set for the worst week since January.

“Reliance is branching out into completely new businesses,” said Horace Chan, an energy analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “That raises concerns whether the investments could generate acceptable return and payback period, given the time to acquire technology know-how and seek strategic partners.”

Ambani isn’t entirely turning his back on his legacy oil and petrochemicals business. On Thursday, he said that a delayed plan to bring Saudi Arabian Oil Co. as an investor in the energy division -- announced two years ago -- will be finalized this year. He didn’t elaborate. In a move to reassure investors, he also said Aramco Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan will join the board of Reliance.