Adani loses Asia's richest crown as stock rout deepens to $84 billion


  • World
  • Wednesday, 01 Feb 2023

FILE PHOTO: Indian billionaire Gautam Adani speaks during an inauguration ceremony after the Adani Group completed the purchase of Haifa Port in Haifa port, Israel January 31, 2023. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Shares in Indian tycoon Gautam Adani's conglomerate plunged again on Wednesday as a rout in his companies deepened to $84 billion in the wake of a U.S. short-seller report, with the billionaire also losing his title as Asia's richest person.

Wednesday's stock losses saw Adani slip to 15th on Forbes rich list with an estimated net worth of $76.8 billion, below rival Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd who ranks ninth with a net worth of $83.6 billion.

Before the critical report by U.S. short-seller Hindenburg, Adani had ranked third.

The losses mark a dramatic setback for Adani, the school-dropout-turned-billionaire whose business interests stretch from ports and airports to mining and cement. Now, the tycoon is fighting to stabilise his businesses and defend his reputation.

It comes just a day after the group managed to muster support from investors for a $2.5 billion share sale for flagship firm Adani Enterprises on Tuesday, in what some saw as a stamp of investor confidence.

The report by Hindenburg Research last week alleged improper use by the Adani Group of offshore tax havens and stock manipulation. It also raised concerns about high debt and the valuations of seven listed Adani companies.

The group has denied the allegations, saying the short-seller's narrative of stock manipulation has "no basis" and stems from an ignorance of Indian law. It has always made the necessary regulatory disclosures, it added.

Shares in Adani Enterprises, often described as the incubator of Adani businesses, plunged 30% on Wednesday. Adani Power fell 5%, while Adani Total Gas slumped 10%, down by its daily price limit.

Adani Transmission was down 6% and Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone dropped 20%.

Adani Total Gas, a joint venture with France's Total, has been the biggest casualty of the short seller report, losing about $27 billion.

"There was a slight bounce yesterday after the share sale went through, after seeming improbable at a point, but now the weak market sentiment has become visible again after the bombshell Hindenburg report," said Ambareesh Baliga, a Mumbai-based independent market analyst.

"With the stocks down despite Adani's rebuttal, it clearly shows some damage on investor sentiment. It will take a while to stabilise," Baliga added.

Graphic: Gautam Adani slips to world's eighth richest person- https://www.reuters.com/graphics/ADANI-INDIA/HINDENBURG-NETWORTH/akpeqadbbpr/chart.png

SCRUTINY

Underscoring the nervousness in some quarters, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Credit Suisse had stopped accepting bonds of Adani group companies as collateral for margin loans to its private banking clients.

Deven Choksey, managing director of KRChoksey Shares and Securities, said this was a big factor in Wednesday's share slides.

Credit Suisse had no immediate comment.

Scrutiny of the conglomerate is stepping up, with an Australian regulator saying on Wednesday it would review Hindenburg's allegations to see if further enquiries were warranted.

Data also showed that foreign investors sold a net $1.5 billion worth of Indian equities after the Hindenburg report - the biggest outflow over four consecutive days since Sept. 30.

Headaches for the Adani Group are expected to continue for some time.

India's markets regulator, which has been looking into deals by the conglomerate, has said it will add Hindenburg's report to its own preliminary investigation.

State-run Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) said on Monday it would seek clarifications from Adani's management on the short seller report. The insurance giant was, however, a key investor in the Adani Enterprises share sale.

Hindenburg said in its report it had shorted U.S.-bonds and non-India traded derivatives of the Adani Group.

(Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru and Aditi Shah in New Delhi; Additional reporting by Bharath Rajeshwaran and Aditya Kalra; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Mark Potter)

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