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Adani shares nosedive as Indian tycoon drops down rich list

By AFP - Feb 01,2023 - Last updated at Feb 01,2023

A pedestrian walks past Adani electricity office in Mumbai on Tuesday (AFP photo)

MUMBAI — Shares in Gautam Adani's empire nosedived again on Wednesday as the Indian tycoon dropped off the Forbes top 10 rich list following allegations of massive accounting fraud.

The five-day rout has now wiped out around $92 billion of the value of the conglomerate's listed units, Bloomberg News said, while Adani's fortune has collapsed by more than $40 billion.

The share price of flagship firm Adani Enterprises suddenly dropped further on Wednesday afternoon, closing 28.45 per cent lower on the Mumbai stock exchange.

The trigger was news that Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse had stopped accepting Adani bonds as collateral for loans it advances to private banking clients, Bloomberg reported.

The slide in Adani's personal wealth on the real-time Forbes rich list meant that the school dropout billionaire was overtaken as Asia's richest man by fellow Indian Mukesh Ambani.

Adani Total Gas — in which French giant TotalEnergies owns 37.4 per cent — dropped another 10 per cent on Wednesday, forcing the Bombay Stock Exchange to suspend trade in the stock soon after the market's open.

Adani Ports dropped almost 18 per cent, while Adani Power and Adani Wilmar fell 5 per cent each.

The sudden sharp drop in Adani Enterprises came despite a $2.5 billion stock sale in the firm that concluded on Tuesday and was oversubscribed.

Smaller retail investors largely steered clear from the follow-on public offering, however, impeding Adani's plans to expand his shareholder base to include "the average, normal Indian mom and dad as shareholders".

Large buyers instead propped up the share sale, including fellow Indian tycoons Sajjan Jindal and Sunil Mittal, Bloomberg News reported, citing unidentified sources.

 

1,000 per cent 

 

Publicity-shy Adani, 60, has seen his empire expand at breakneck speed, with shares in Adani Enterprises soaring by more than a thousand per cent over the past five years.

This helped make him, as of last week, the world's third-richest man behind Elon Musk and Bernard Arnault and family.

According to US short-seller investment group Hindenburg Research, Adani has artificially boosted the share prices of its units by funnelling money into the stocks through offshore tax havens.

This "brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme" is "the largest con in corporate history", Hindenburg said in its explosive report issued last week.

Even before the report there were concerns that Adani had taken on too much debt.

Adani said it was the victim of a "maliciously mischievous" reputational attack and issued a 413-page statement on Sunday that said Hindenburg's claims were "nothing but a lie".

Hindenburg, which makes money by betting on stocks falling, said in response that Adani's statement failed to answer most of the questions raised in its report.

 

Opposition heckles 

 

Critics say Adani's close relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi has helped him win business and avoid proper regulatory oversight.

Modi, who like Adani is from Gujarat state, has not commented publicly since the Hindenburg claims, which analysts say has hurt India's image just as it seeks to woo overseas investors away from China.

The firm's many interests include ports — the firm took control of one of Israel's biggest this week — telecoms, airports, media and energy, both in coal and renewables.

India's opposition Congress party called this week for a "serious investigation" by the central bank and regulator into Adani's firms following the Hindenburg allegations.

"For all its posturing about black money, has the Modi government chosen to turn a blind eye towards illicit activities by its favourite business group?" Congress said.

Opposition lawmakers mockingly chanted "Adani! Adani" on Wednesday as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman talked about ports during a budget speech.

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