Adani Crisis May Spark Wider Financial Turmoil In India

Both the Houses of India’s parliament were adjourned on Friday last week amid chaotic scenes as some lawmakers demanded an inquiry following the meltdown of shares in billionaire Gautam Adani’s group companies, which some fear could spark wider financial turmoil. Opposition parties continue to highlight that Life Insurance Corporations (LIC) of India’s and State Bank of India’s (SBI) high exposure to stocks in the Adani Group can have wider economic repercussions.

Picture : Bloomberg

Shares in Adani companies recovered after sharp falls, but the seven listed firms have still lost about half their market value – or more than $100 billion combined – since U.S. short-seller Hindenburg Research last week accused the group of stock manipulation and unsustainable debt, Reuters reported.

The Reserve Bank of India on Friday said India’s banking sector is “resilient and stable” and the central bank maintains constant vigil on the lenders, in a statement issued in the light of the Adani crisis, triggered by a US-based short seller’s allegations of stock manipulation, fraud and use of tax havens by the Adani Group.

The stock rout led to Adani Group losing around $108 billion since Hindenburg Research published its report on January 24. But signs of recovery were visible on Friday.

But the government differs

Talking about the risks to the Indian banking system and lenders emanating from the ongoing crisis, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said that the country’s banking system is in a sound position. “They (LIC and SBI) have very clearly said that their exposure (to Adani Group stocks) is very well within the permitted limits and with valuation falling as well, they are still over profit. That is the word from the horse’s mouth,” Sitharaman said in an interview with CNBC-TV18.

The stock market turmoil created by the rout in Adani group shares is a “storm in a teacup” from a macroeconomic point of view, finance secretary TV Somanathan said on Friday, emphasising that India’s public financial system is robust. The senior-most bureaucrat in the finance ministry also said that movements in the stock market per se is not the government’s concern and there are independent regulators to take necessary action. Read more here.

Mukesh Ambani Regains The Crown As World’s Richest Indian

As the rout in Adani group’s stocks triggered by short seller Hindenburg Research’s allegations touched $92 billion on Wednesday, as per news agency Bloomberg, business tycoon Gautam Adani lost his status as the world’s richest Indian to fellow Gujarati businessman and Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani.

The richest

Sixty-year-old Adani has now been pushed to the No. 15 spot on the list of world’s richest billionaires, compiled by Forbes, with his wealth now estimated at $75.1 billion. Sixty-five-year-old Ambani is at 9th position with a net worth of $83.7 billion. Over the last three years, Ambani and Adani have swapped positions as world’s richest Indian on several occasions.

With that, Ambani also became the world’s richest man from Asia, sharing the top-ten space in the Forbes list of billionaires with Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Larry Page among others.

Brotherhood of billionaires

Adani groups, on Tuesday, secured a $2.5 billion share sale amid the short-seller storm, triggered by allegations of stock manipulation, accounting fraud and use of tax havens against the conglomerate.

While the heavy lifting was done by a $400 million investment from a conglomerate based in Abu Dhabi, a few other uber-rich surprisingly came to the last-minute defense of their compatriot.

People who’re neither financial institutions nor small investors bid for 3.3 times the stock reserved for them as a class. A Delhi-based industrialist, three Gujarati pharmaceuticals billionaires and a steel magnate from Mumbai were among the share sale’s white knights, according to the Economic Times. Read more here.

But, FPO cancelled

However, Adani Enterprises sprung up a surprise on Wednesday evening, announcing that it has “decided not to go ahead with the fully-subscribed Follow-on Public Offer” and assured that all proceeds will be refunded to investors. In a statement, it cited “unprecedented” market fluctuations and “extraordinary circumstances” to conclude that going ahead would not be “morally correct”.

Gautam Adani Lost Half His Wealth In A Flash

CNN — Less than two weeks ago, Gautam Adani was the fourth-richest person in the world. With a personal fortune estimated at $120 billion, the self-made Indian industrialist was wealthier than either Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.

Then Hindenburg Research, an American short seller with bets against Adani’s companies, accused him of pulling off “the largest con in corporate history.”

Adani’s firms have lost $110 billion in value since then, and his own wealth has been halved to little more than $61 billion as investors pull their support.

While the Adani Group has condemned the report as “baseless” and “malicious,” investor questions about its claims linger, and the fallout is growing. Adani’s business partners and lenders are clarifying their ties to the conglomerate, while India’s federal government is reportedly launching an investigation of his business after an outcry by opposition lawmakers.

Here’s what you need to know.

Who is Gautam Adani?

Gautam Adani is a 60-year-old tycoon who founded the Adani Group more than 30 years ago.

college drop-out, he built a sprawling business empire that spans infrastructure, logistics, energy production and mining. That success has earned him comparisons to John D. Rockefeller and Cornelius Vanderbilt, who created vast monopolies during America’s Gilded Age in the 1800s.

He was Asia’s richest man, and last September briefly surpassed Jeff Bezos to become the second-wealthiest person in the world. He’s also seen as a close ally of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi.

What are the accusations against him?

Hindenburg Research stunned investors in late January when it published a report accusing Adani and his companies of widespread fraud and “brazen stock manipulation” that it alleged took place over decades. The firm said it had taken a short position in Adani Group companies, meaning it would benefit from a drop in their value.

Hindenburg pitched 88 questions to Adani that cast doubt on his conglomerate’s financial health. Those ranged from requests for details on the group’s offshore entities to why it has “such a convoluted, interlinked corporate structure.”

The Adani Group has said it’s considering legal action in response to the claims. It charged Hindenburg with launching “a calculated attack on India” and said the investment firm is only interested in its own financial gain. But analysts say Adani Group hasn’t convincingly answered the questions raised by the report.

What do investors think?

Investors, spooked by the claims, are bailing, not wanting to get caught on the wrong side of a trade. Shares of Adani Enterprises, Adani’s flagship firm, have plummeted almost 55% since Hindenburg’s report was published on January 24.

The company is now struggling to raise new funding as a result. On Wednesday, Adani Enterprises abruptly abandoned a $2.5 billion deal to sell shares, just 24 hours after it was sealed.

Stocks of most Adani Group companies slumped again on Friday. India’s stock exchanges halted trading in five listed Adani firms after their shares crashed by the daily limits, set at 5% and 10%.

Meanwhile, TotalEnergies, a major business partner, said Adani had agreed to let one of the “big four” accounting firms carry out a “general audit.” There was no confirmation from Adani.

The French energy giant described its $3.1 billion exposure to Adani, via joint investments in India, as “limited”. It also said these partnerships were “undertaken in full compliance with applicable — namely Indian — laws.”

What happens next?

The wave of selling is raising questions about how Adani’s businesses will continue to cover their costs.

The large debt load of Adani firms — one of the concerns raised by Hindenburg — is under the microscope. Ratings agency Moody’s said Friday that the turmoil was likely to reduce the group’s ability to raise capital.

In a statement Wednesday night, Adani stressed that his business remains on solid footing, and that executives would review its capital market strategy “once the market stabilizes.”

“Our balance sheet is very healthy with strong cashflows and secure assets, and we have an impeccable track record of servicing our debt,” he said.

The consequences of the sell-off may not be contained to Adani. Indian banks that hold Adani Group assets could also be affected if the value of those holdings continues to drop.

The Reserve Bank of India said Friday that the banking sector “remains resilient and stable” based on its latest assessment and pledged to continue to monitor the situation.

In its first statement on the recent market turmoil, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) said Saturday that it had observed “unusual price movement in the stocks of a business conglomerate.” It said that if any information comes to SEBI’s notice,” it would be examined and “appropriate action” would be taken.

The market regulator added that it “is committed to ensuring market integrity.”

India Inc. on the defensive

At the same time, the ordeal is the source of growing political turmoil in New Delhi. Opposition lawmakers in India have demanded a probe into the Hindenburg report. They staged a protest in the country’s parliament on Wednesday while the country’s finance minister presented the annual budget.

Their demands that normal business be suspended Friday to allow an emergency debate on the Adani crisis led to an uproar, resulting in the adjournment of both houses of parliament until Monday.

“Action is being taken against Adani all over the world, but PM Modi is quiet,” the main opposition Congress party tweeted. “When will our govt take action?”

Questions about the health of Adani’s empire are clouding the outlook for India Inc., which just weeks ago was out in force at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland touting opportunities for foreign investors.

The country’s emissaries leaned into its relatively robust economic outlook. The World Bank projected last month that India would log the strongest economic growth of any major economy this year.

“The Adani saga has opened a big can of worms,” said Manish Chowdhury, head of research at brokerage Stoxbox. “The India story is looking weak” to foreign investors now, he added.(CNN.COM)

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