Shares in most Adani Group companies slumped again Friday and India’s parliament was adjourned amid chaotic scenes as the mayhem surrounding one of the country’s biggest industrial conglomerates deepened.
The ports-to-power empire, created by Gautam Adani, has been reeling since a US short seller, Hindenburg Research, accused it of fraud and stock market manipulation in January. The Adani Group has denounced the report as “baseless” and “malicious.” It insists the fundamentals of its business are “strong.” But analysts say the group hasn’t convincingly answered questions raised by the report.
On Friday, shares of Adani Enterprises, the group’s flagship firm, fell as much as 35% in Mumbai. They recovered most of those losses to close down 2%, bringing the cumulative fall to almost 55% since the allegations surfaced 10 days ago.
The Indian stock exchanges halted trading in five other listed Adani firms after their stock crashed by the daily limits set at 5% and 10%. They included Adani Total Gas and Adani Green Energy, ventures in which TotalEnergies
(TTFNF) of France has invested.
The French energy giant described its $3 billion exposure to Adani as “limited” in a statement on Friday, adding that it welcomed Adani’s intention to appoint one of the Big Four global accounting firms to conduct a “general audit.” Adani Group declined to comment.
Ratings agency Moody’s rang alarm bells about the plunge in the shares of several Adani companies, saying in a statement Friday that it was likely to reduce the group’s ability to raise capital. Another agency, S&P, cut the outlook for its ratings on two companies — Adani Ports and Adani Electricity — to negative from stable, citing the risk of higher funding costs or reduced access to capital.
Shares of Adani Ports, India’s largest private port operator, had earlier closed up 5.6%. The company operates Mundra Port, often called the group’s “crown jewel,” which is located in the western Indian state of Gujarat.
Meanwhile, S&P Dow Jones — which compiles market benchmarks for investors — said it would remove Adani Enterprises from its sustainability indexes next week, following an analysis “triggered by allegations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud.”
Adani is seen as a close ally of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, and opposition lawmakers have been calling for a probe into the Hindenburg report. They staged a protest in India’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 uproar, resulting in both houses of parliament being adjourned 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?”
Reuters reported that India’s federal government had started a “preliminary review” of the Adani Group’s financial statements and other regulatory submissions, quoting two senior government officials. Government spokespeople were not immediately available for comment late on Friday.
India’s central bank addressed the growing dismay, albeit without mentioning it directly.
“There have been media reports expressing concern about the exposures of Indian banks to a business conglomerate,” the Reserve Bank of India said in a statement. “As per the RBI’s current assessment, the banking sector remains resilient and stable… The RBI remains vigilant and continues to monitor the stability of the Indian banking sector.”
On Wednesday, Adani Enterprises abruptly abandoned a $2.5 billion deal to sell new shares, just 24 hours after it was sealed. Gautam Adani, the group’s founder, said in a recorded video address on Thursday that the share issue was pulled to protect investors from losses — the stock had been trading well below the offer price since last week.
But his address did little to halt the stock market meltdown that has wiped more than $100 billion off the combined market value of his companies. By Friday’s close those losses stood at over $110 billion.
Adani’s personal fortune has taken a massive hit because of the stock market turmoil. Last week, he had a net worth of $120 billion, making him the fourth-richest person in the world. His net worth has now fallen to a little more than $61 billion and claims the 21st spot on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
— Manveena Suri in New Delhi and Anna Cooban in London contributed to this article.