Almost a week after a feared short-seller put his company in its sights, Gautam Adani is just a few billion dollars away from losing his title as Asia’s richest person.
As of Jan. 30, Adani, chairman of the Adani Group, is now the world’s 11th-richest man, with a fortune of $84.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That’s a huge drop from the $121 billion fortune he was estimated to have at the beginning of the year (which put Adani in third place, behind LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault and Tesla CEO Elon Musk).
Even worse, fellow Indian industrialist Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, is right behind Adani in 12th place, with a fortune of $82.2 billion. If Adani’s fortune continues to drop, he risks losing the position of Asia’s richest person to Ambani.
The two Indian billionaires are rivals, competing in sectors like energy, consumer goods, media, and even cricket.
Rise and fall
Adani’s wealth surged in 2022, owing to an increase in share price in Adani Group companies. Shares in commodity trader Adani Enterprises, the group’s flagship, rose by more than 225% over 2022, while shares in Adani Power rose by 300% over the same period.
The plunge in Adani’s net worth follows last week’s release of a 100-page report from Hindenburg Research. The short-seller accused the Adani Group of stock manipulation, poor governance, and “pulling the largest con in corporate history.”
Shares in Adani companies have plummeted since then, wiping out $75 billion in value.
Adani Enterprises is currently in the middle of a $2.5 billion share sale, which is scheduled to end today. On Monday, the share sale got a vote of support from Abu Dhabi’s International Holding Co., which agreed to invest $400 million.
‘A calculated attack on India’
The battle between the Adani Group and Hindenburg Research is quickly turning into a debate about India itself.
Hindenburg’s report “is not merely an unwarranted attack on any specific company but a calculated attack on India, the independence, integrity, and quality of Indian institutions, and the growth story and ambition of India,” the Adani Group wrote in its 413-page response on Sunday.
The Wall Street short-seller delivered a fiery rebuttal the following day, arguing that “the Adani Group has attempted to conflate its meteoric rise and the wealth of its chairman, Gautam Adani, with the success of India itself.”
“India’s future is being held back by the Adani Group, which has draped itself in the Indian flag while systematically looting the nation,” wrote the firm, continuing that the Adani Group failed to give specific answers to most of its questions, instead only offering “generalized deflections.”
Fears over the Adani Group are dragging down other Indian companies. Shares in the state-owned Life Insurance Corporation of India, which has a significant stake in Adani Enterprises, have fallen almost 7% since the release of Hindenburg’s report.
It’s even knocked India from its place as the world’s fifth most valuable equity market, falling behind France on Monday.
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