Richest Indian Gautam Adani's group on Sunday likened the damning allegations made by short seller Hindenburg Research to a "calculated attack" on India, its institutions and growth story, saying the allegations are "nothing but a lie".
In a 413-page response, Adani Group said the report was driven by "an ulterior motive" to "create a false market" to allow the US firm to make financial gains.
"This 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," it said.
Stating that the allegations in Hindenburg Research's January 24 report are "nothing but a lie", it said the document is "a malicious combination of selective misinformation and concealed facts relating to baseless and discredited allegations to drive an ulterior motive".
"This is rife with conflict of interest and intended only to create a false market in securities to enable Hindenburg, an admitted short seller, to book massive financial gain through wrongful means at the cost of countless investors," it said.
It went on to question the credibility and ethics of Hindenburg, and said the mala fide intention underlying the report were apparent given its timing when Adani Enterprises Limited is undertaking one of the largest ever further public offering of equity shares in India.
"Hindenburg has not published this report for any altruistic reasons but purely out of selfish motives and in flagrant breach of applicable securities and foreign exchange laws," it said. "The report is neither 'independent' nor 'objective' nor 'well researched'." Activist short seller Hindenburg Research, the firm which caught global attention with takedowns of electric-vehicle makers Nikola and Lordstown Motors, alleged in a report on Wednesday that its two-year investigation found the Adani Group "engaged in a brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme over the course of decades".
The report by the tiny New York firm that specialises in short selling has led to Adani group losing more than USD 50 billion in market value in just two trading sessions and Adani himself losing in excess of USD 20 billion, or about one-fifth of his total fortune.
Hindenburg called out the conglomerate's "substantial debt", which includes pledging shares for loans; that Adani's brother Vinod "manages a vast labyrinth of offshore shell entities" that move billions into group companies without required disclosure; and that its auditor "hardly seems capable of complex audit work".
Of the 88 questions raised by Hindenburg, 65 of them relate to matters that have been duly disclosed by Adani portfolio companies, Adani Group said. "Of the balance 23 questions, 18 relate to public shareholders and third parties (and not the Adani portfolio companies), while the balance 5 are baseless allegations based on imaginary fact patterns." It listed questions from the report and dismissed them as "false suggestions based on malicious misrepresentation of governance practices" or "manipulated narrative around unrelated third party entities" or "biased and unsubstantiated rhetoric".
"We reaffirm that we are in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. We are committed to the highest levels of governance to protect the interests of all our stakeholders," it said. "The Adani Portfolio also has very strong internal controls and audit controls. All the listed companies of Adani Portfolio have a robust governance framework." The focus of the Adani portfolio and the Adani verticals is to contribute to nation building and take India to the world, it said.
"We will exercise our rights to pursue remedies to safeguard our stakeholders before all appropriate authorities and we reserve our rights to respond further to any of the allegations or contents of the Hindenburg report or to supplement this statement," it added.
Shortly after Adani's response, Hindenburg Research also reacted to the dismissive claims made by Adani in a long report titled: "Our Reply To Adani: Fraud Cannot Be Obfuscated By Nationalism Or A Bloated Response That Ignores Every Key Allegation We Raised".
The firm claimed that Adani's report failed to respond to 62 of the 88 questions posed by them and mainly grouped questions together in categories and provided "generalized deflections".
"[Adani] predictably tried to lead the focus away from substantive issues and instead stoked a nationalist narrative, claiming our report amounted to a “calculated attack on India.” In short, the Adani Group has attempted to conflate its meteoric rise and the wealth of its Chairman, Gautam Adani, with the success of India itself," countered Hindenburg.
"We disagree. To be clear, we believe India is a vibrant democracy and an emerging superpower with an exciting future. We also believe India’s future is being held back by the Adani Group, which has draped itself in the Indian flag while systematically looting the nation. We also believe that fraud is fraud, even when it’s perpetrated by one of the wealthiest individuals in the world," added their response.
Hindenburg concluded by stating that "Adani’s response largely confirmed their findings and ignored their key questions." They said that they will continue to update the list of issues against Adani, closely scrutinizing Adani’s response and continue their ongoing "due diligence" on the company.
With inputs from PTI
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