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India’s Adani hits back at new ‘stock manipulation’ report

Adani Group faces allegations of share price manipulation by Hindenburg Research and offshore tax havens, while denying the claims and citing suspicious timing of reports.

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NEW DELHI, INDIA — India’s Adani Group hit back Thursday at a new report investigating alleged manipulation of the conglomerate’s share prices, accusing its authors of conspiring to drive down its stocks for profit.

The globe-spanning ports-to-power conglomerate saw around $120 billion wiped from its market value after US short-seller investment firm Hindenburg Research accused it of “brazen” corporate fraud.

On Wednesday, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) said it had uncovered financial documents backing Hindenburg’s claims that Adani had used offshore tax havens and related party transactions to drive up its share price.

The report said two men who had served as directors in Adani Group companies had spent years trading stock in the conglomerate “through offshore structures that obscured their involvement”.

Adani said in a Thursday statement that it “categorically” rejected the OCCRP’s findings and accused the investigative journalism network of seeking to profit by “driving down our stock prices”.

“We have complete faith in the due process of law and remain confident of the quality of our disclosures and corporate governance standards,” it said.

“In light of these facts, the timing of these news reports is suspicious, mischievous and malicious.”

A meteoric rise in Adani Group’s share prices — its main listed unit shot up more than 1,000 percent in five years — funded the conglomerate’s breakneck expansion.

Billionaire founder Gautam Adani, who was until this year the world’s third-richest man, lost two-thirds of his net worth in the wake of the Hindenburg allegations.

He is considered a close associate of Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a fellow native of Gujarat state.

Opposition parties and other critics say their relationship helped Adani to unfairly win business and avoid proper oversight.

His empire’s rapid expansion into capital-intensive businesses has raised alarms, with Fitch subsidiary and market researcher CreditSights warning last year that Adani Group was “deeply overleveraged”.

Shares in the conglomerate’s flagship Adani Enterprises fell dramatically after the January allegations by Hindenburg, a short-seller that not only tracks corporate wrongdoing but also makes money by betting on stocks falling.

They remain 35 percent down from the start of the year, falling another 2.4 percent in Thursday morning trade on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

India’s securities regulator is expected to soon release the findings of a probe into Adani Group launched in the wake of the Hindenburg allegations.

— AFP

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