03 Feb 2023, 11:53

India's Adani denies rise due to Modi as shares slump again

MUMBAI, Feb 3, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Beleaguered Indian tycoon Gautam Adani
denied Friday that his rise to become Asia's richest man -- a title he has
lost in a phenomenal stock rout -- was due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi,
as shares in his conglomerate slumped again.

His listed units' combined market capitalisation has collapsed by more than
$100 billion since US short-seller Hindenburg Research -- which makes money
by betting on shares falling -- released an explosive report last week.

It accused Adani of accounting fraud and artificially boosted its share
prices, calling it a "brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme"
and "the largest con in corporate history".

Critics say Adani's close relationship with Modi, who is also from Gujarat
state, has helped him win business and avoid proper oversight.

"These allegations are baseless," Adani told India Today television on
Friday, adding that their shared origins made him an "easy target" for such

"The fact of the matter is that my professional success is not because of any
individual leader," he insisted.

His comments came as shares in his flagship firm Adani Enterprises were
repeatedly suspended on the Bombay Stock Exchange, hitting multiple trading
stops on the way to falling by 25 percent.

Adani Power, Adani Green Energy, Adani Total Gas -- in which French giant
TotalEnergies has a 37.4 percent stake -- and Adani Transmission were also
suspended when they hit their limits.

- Share sale cancelled -

Adani himself has seen his fortune plummet by tens of billions of dollars,
dumping him out of the real-time Forbes rich list top 20, where he used to be

A 60-year-old publicity-shy school dropout, he has seen his operations expand
at breakneck speed, with Adani Enterprises shares soaring more than 1,000
percent over the past five years.

But late Wednesday his main firm cancelled a $2.5-billion stock sale meant to
help reduce debt levels -- long a concern -- restore confidence and broaden
its shareholder base.

The issue failed to attract "mom and dad" retail investors and only sold out
thanks to large institutional buyers, fellow Indian moguls and $400 million
from the United Arab Emirates' IHC.

The Adani Enterprises board said in a statement that going ahead with the
issue "would not be morally correct" and that it would refund all payments.

Big banks including Credit Suisse and Citigroup have stopped accepting Adani
bonds as collateral for loans to private clients, according to Bloomberg

That fuelled worries about how Adani will raise fresh funds, with Adani
dollar bonds trading at distressed levels and signs of contagion in Indian
markets increasing, Bloomberg reported.

According to Hindenburg Research, Adani has artificially boosted the share
prices of its units by funnelling money into the stocks through offshore tax

The group had benefitted from what it called a "decades-long pattern" of
government leniency, and that "investors, journalists, citizens and even
politicians have been afraid to speak out for fear of reprisal".

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

Hindenburg said in response that Adani failed to answer most of the questions
raised in its report.

Analysts say that the turmoil has hurt India's image just as it seeks to woo
overseas investors away from China.

India's central bank has asked lenders for details of their exposure to the
Adani Group -- whose interests include ports, telecoms, airports, media and
coal, oil and solar power -- Bloomberg reported citing unnamed sources.

In his interview Friday, Adani said that only 32 percent of his firms' loans
were owed to Indian banks, with almost half their debt obtained through
international bonds.

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