Infrastructure Billionaire Gautam Adani Puts Fallout From U.S. Short Seller Report Behind Him – Forbes

This story appears in the October 2023 issue of Forbes Asia. Subscribe to Forbes Asia
Gautam Adani
This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of India’s Richest 2023. See the full list here.
A year ago, infrastructure billionaire Gautam Adani was on top of the world. With a net worth of $150 billion he’d not just grabbed the No. 1 spot on the list of India’s 100 richest, but had scaled global wealth rankings to become the world’s second-richest person. A few months later he got knocked off that perch after a January report by U.S. short seller Hindenburg Research alleging stock manipulation and accounting fraud sent shares of his Adani Group companies tumbling.

While the sprawling ports-to-power conglomerate, founded and chaired by Adani, denied any wrongdoing and shares have recovered somewhat since, the tumult has taken its toll. With a massive $82 billion erased from his net worth, he has slipped to No. 2 on the India rankings with a fortune of $68 billion shared with his family.
In response to the Hindenburg report, the country’s Supreme Court asked the Securities and Exchange Board of India to investigate whether the group violated the minimum 25% public shareholding requirement and rules on related-party transaction disclosure. Its review is still ongoing. An Adani Group spokesperson says by email that Hindenburg’s allegations are baseless and that the report has not affected the company’s operations.
Indeed, in a display of resilience, the billionaire, who in the past has survived both a kidnapping attempt and being caught in the crossfire of a terrorist attack, seems to have largely put that crisis behind him. Adani, who’s known to be close to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been pressing ahead with a slew of new projects and acquisitions.
In April, the group’s listed port unit completed the $178 million purchase of the bankrupt Karaikal Port in southern India after a special court approved the acquisition. A month later, AdaniConneX, a joint venture with global data center provider EdgeConneX, announced it was building a 300-megawatt data center and technology park in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. By June, the firm had secured over $200 million funding for its data center projects.
One of the biggest wins for Adani was the approval secured by Adani Properties from the Maharashtra state government in July to jointly redevelop Dharavi, a sprawling suburban Mumbai slum, one of Asia’s largest, that featured in the award-winning Hollywood film Slumdog Millionaire. Adani Group’s $610 million bid was selected last year over a rival offer from DLF, controlled by property billionaire Kushal Pal Singh. Adani Properties has an 80% shareholding in the public-private partnership aimed at transforming an area that covers over 240 hectares into a mixed-use urban hub. The complex project is expected to cost around 230 billion rupees and take around seven years to complete but faces a legal challenge from Dubai-based SecLink Technologies, which alleges that its 2018 bid was improperly cancelled to accommodate Adani Group. While Adani Properties is a party to the suit, the Adani Group spokesperson declined to comment as the matter is under judicial consideration.
These moves helped shares of Adani’s nine listed companies, including flagship Adani Enterprises, to claw back gains, though most still trade below pre-January levels.
Adani is also proceeding apace with his renewable energy ambitions. The group plans to invest up to $50 billion over the next ten years to develop green hydrogen production capacity of up to 3 million metric tonnes with the aim of becoming one of the world’s largest renewable energy companies, including solar and wind, by 2030. In September, it announced a joint venture with Japan’s Kowa Co. to market green hydrogen in Japan and elsewhere once production at its Gujarat plant commences in 2027.
The green hydrogen project was set up as a partnership between Adani Enterprises and one of its largest overseas investors, energy giant TotalEnergies. In February, the French firm put its investment on hold, pending independent reviews of the Hindenburg allegations, prompting Adani Group chief financial officer Robbie Singh to say in an investor call that the group would go ahead with the project on its own. Seven months later, TotalEnergies, in a separate deal, agreed to commit $300 million to an equal joint venture with Adani Green Energy that has a target to develop 45 gigawatts of renewable power capacity by 2030.
Alongside this dealmaking, Adani embarked on a deleveraging campaign to reduce borrowings. In recent months, he trimmed his holdings in group companies, raising some $4.7 billion from selling shares to global investment firms GQG Partners and Qatar Investment Authority. By June, he prepaid $2.2 billion of loans backed by pledged shares. Over the same period, the group prepaid an additional $700 million borrowed to acquire Ambuja Cements from Switzerland’s Holcim Group.
These moves helped shares of Adani’s nine listed companies, including flagship Adani Enterprises, to claw back gains, though most still trade below pre-January levels.


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