By: Pramod Thomas
India’s Adani group shares sank on Thursday (2) after it abandoned its flagship company’s $2.5 billion stock offering, swelling the conglomerate’s market losses to more than $100bn and sparking worries about the potential systemic impact.
The withdrawal of Adani Enterprises’ share sale caps a dramatic setback for Gautam Adani, the school dropout-turned-billionaire whose fortunes rose rapidly in recent years but dwindled over the past one week after a US-based short-seller published a critical research report.
The events are an embarrassing turn for Adani who has forged partnerships with foreign giants such as France’s Total Energies and investors such as Abu Dhabi’s International Holding Company as he pursues a global expansion of businesses that stretch from ports and mining to cement and power.
Adani late on Wednesday (1) called off the share sale as a stocks rout sparked by short-seller Hindenburg’s criticisms intensified, despite the offer being fully subscribed on Tuesday.
Adani Enterprises plunged nearly 20 per cent on Thursday, trading at its lowest since March 2022. Other group companies were also under pressure – Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone was down 5 per cent, while Adani Total Gas, Adani Green Energy and Adani Transmission lost 10 per cent each.
Since Hindenburg’s report was released on Jan. 24, group companies have lost nearly half their combined market value. Adani Enterprises – described as an incubator of Adani’s businesses – alone has lost $24bn in market capitalisation.
Adani, 60, is also no longer Asia’s richest person, having slid in the rankings of the world’s wealthiest to 16th, as per Forbes’ list, from third last week.
“Unless Adani is able to regain the confidence of institutional investors, stocks will be in freefall,” said Avinash Gorakshakar, head of research at Mumbai-based Profitmart Securities.
Adani’s plummeting stocks have raised concerns about the likelihood of a wider impact on India’s financial system.
India’s central bank has asked local banks for details of their exposure to the Adani group of companies, government and banking sources said on Thursday. CLSA estimates that Indian banks were exposed to about 40 per cent of the Rs 2 trillion ($24.53bn) of Adani group’s debt in the fiscal year to March 2022.
Citigroup’s wealth unit has stopped extending margin loans to its clients against securities of Adani group and decided to cut the loan-to-value ratio for credit against Adani securities to zero on Thursday, said a source.
“We see the market is losing confidence on how to gauge where the bottom can be and although there will be short-covering rebounds, we expect more fundamental downside risks given more private banks (are) likely to cut or reduce margin,” Monica Hsiao, Chief Investment Officer of Hong Kong-based credit fund Triada Capital, said.
In New Delhi, opposition lawmakers submitted notices in the Indian parliament, demanding discussion on the US short-seller’s report. The Congress party demanded setting up a Joint Parliamentary Committee or a Supreme Court monitored investigation into the matter.
‘Improper use of offshore tax havens’
Hindenburg’s report last week alleged an improper use of offshore tax havens and stock manipulation by the Adani group. It also raised concerns about high debt and the valuations of seven listed Adani companies.
The Adani group has denied the accusations, saying the short-seller’s allegation of stock manipulation has “no basis” and stems from an ignorance of Indian law. The group has always made the necessary regulatory disclosures, it added.
Earlier this week, the Adani group said it had the complete support of investors, but investor confidence has tapered in recent days.
As shares plunged after the Hindenburg report publication, Adani managed to secure the share sale subscriptions on Tuesday even though the stock’s market price was below the issue’s offer price. But on Wednesday, stocks plunged again.
Maybank Securities and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, as well as India’s Life Insurance Corporation, had bid for the anchor portion of the issue. Those investments will now be returned by Adani.
In a late night announcement on Wednesday, the billionaire said he was withdrawing the share sale as the company’s “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.”
Early on Thursday, Adani said in a video address the “interest of my investors is paramount and everything is secondary. Hence, to insulate the investors from potential losses we have withdrawn” the share sale.