Shares of some Adani Group companies plunged 20% on Friday, in the wake of a short-seller attack on the conglomerate.
Stocks of Adani Transmission and Adani Green Energy tumbled 20% each, while Adani Ports and Adani Enterprises were the worst performers on the Nifty 50, plunging more than 20% each. The sell-off dragged Indian shares to an over three-month low.
Seven listed companies of the Adani conglomerate have lost a combined $50 billion in market capitalisation since Wednesday, following a report by US short-seller Hindenburg Research that flagged concerns about the Adani Group’s ‘precarious’ debt levels and ‘improper’ use of tax havens.
Hindenburg said it held short positions in Adani through its US-traded bonds and non-Indian-traded derivative instruments.
The Indian conglomerate – controlled by one of the world’s richest men Gautam Adani – said on Thursday it was evaluating “remedial and punitive action” under US and Indian laws against Hindenburg. In a statement to Indian exchanges, Adani Group legal chief Jatin Jalundhwala called the report “maliciously mischievous, (and) unresearched.”
In response, Hindenburg Research said it will demand documents in legal discovery process if Adani Group files a lawsuit in the United States against the short seller for its report on the Indian conglomerate.
“In the 36 hours since we released our report, Adani hasn’t addressed a simple substantive issue we raised,” the group said in a statement. “We fully stand by our report and believe any legal action taken against us would be meritless.”
“If Adani is serious, it should also file suit in the US where we operate. We have a long list of documents [we] would demand in a legal discovery process,” the group said.
Our response to Adani: pic.twitter.com/6NcFKR8gEL
— Hindenburg Research (@HindenburgRes) January 26, 2023
Adani is now the world’s seventh richest man, according to Forbes, slipping from the third position he held before the Hindenburg report. He lost $22.6 billion — nearly a fifth — of his net worth in a day.
Indian investors panic
India’s indexes have slid more than 2% each in the truncated week, with the Hindenburg report triggering panic among investors. US bonds of Adani firms also fell.
The market rout casts doubts on how investors will respond to the company’s record $2.45 billion secondary sale which kicked off on Friday. The group’s flagship company was well below the offer price of its secondary sale.
“The sell-off is seriously extreme … it has clearly dented the overall investor sentiment in the market,” said Saurabh Jain, assistant vice-president of research at SMC Global Securities.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India will study the Hindenburg report to add to its own ongoing preliminary investigation into the group’s foreign portfolio investors, two sources aware of the matter said.
Meanwhile, brokerage houses CLSA and Jefferies said Indian banks’ exposure to the Adani Group is within manageable limits.
“While we watch for developments here, we don’t see material risk arising to the Indian banking sector,” brokerage firm Jefferies said in a note on Thursday.
Report ‘highly credible’
Billionaire US investor Bill Ackman said on Thursday that he found Hindenburg’s report on Adani Group “highly credible and extremely well researched”.
“Adani’s response to Hindenburg is the same as Herbalife’s response to our original 350-page presentation. Herbalife remains a pyramid scheme,” Pershing Square boss Ackman said in a tweet on Thursday.
Ackman bet $1 billion against Herbalife starting in 2012, saying it violated Chinese direct-selling laws and was a pyramid scheme.
We are not invested long or short in any of the Adani companies or Herbalife, nor have we done our own independent research. You should not consider this tweet investment advice, just my judgment based on the @HindenburgRes report and the Adani response.
— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) January 27, 2023
Founded in 2017 by Nathan Anderson, Hindenburg Research is a forensic financial research firm which analyses equity, credit and derivatives.
Hindenburg is best known for its bet against electric truck maker Nikola Corp in September 2020, which generated “a big win”, he told the WSJ, declining to specify the amount.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena
NOTE: The photo on this report was changed on January 27, 2023.