Exclusive-Indian market regulator examining Adani share rout, source says

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

MUMBAI (Reuters) -India's market regulator is examining a recent crash in shares of Adani Group and looking into any possible irregularities in a share sale by its flagship company, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India's (SEBI) examination comes on a day when Adani Group shares plunged, extending losses in seven listed companies to $86 billion in the wake of a U.S. short-seller report.

Late on Wednesday, Gautam Adani's flagship firm called off its share sale in a dramatic reversal, citing market conditions.

Spokespeople for Adani Group and SEBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SEBI is undertaking a full-scale examination of the fall in shares, the source said, declining to be identified as the matter is confidential.

The share plunge was sparked by a report by Hindenburg Research last week which 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 the 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.

The source told Reuters the Indian market regulator is also looking into any possible price manipulation of Adani group stocks, as well as examining possible irregularities in the $2.5 billion share sale of the flagship firm Adani Enterprises, which concluded on Tuesday.

While the share offering's book building process was covered only 3% on Monday, it was fully subscribed on Tuesday. As foreign institutional investors and corporate funds flooded in, the group managed to secure investments even though Adani Enterprises traded below the share sale's offer price.

On Wednesday, a day after the share sale closed, Adani Enterprises plunged 28%, bringing its losses since the Hindenburg report to more than $18 billion. Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone dropped 19%. Both stocks marked their worst day ever.

In a statement withdrawing the issue Wednesday night, Adani said "the market has been unprecedented, and our stock price has fluctuated over the course of the day. Given these extraordinary circumstances, the company’s board felt that going ahead with the issue will not be morally correct."

The first source added that SEBI was also looking into allegations of dealings between Adani Group and related entities that were cited in the Hindenburg report.

Adani said in its rebuttal to Hindenburg's report that: "All transactions entered into by us with entities who qualify as 'related parties' under Indian laws and accounting standards have been duly disclosed by us."

"All key departments - corporate finance, surveillance department at the regulator are examining the share price fall. Exchanges are also sending a report," said a second source familiar with the matter.

(Reporting by Jayshree P. UpadhyayEditing by Ira Dugal, Aditya Kalra and Mark Potter)

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