Shares in Indian industrial conglomerate Adani slid and opposition politicians demanded action after the Financial Times and two other media outlets reported new revelations about family-linked shareholders in the company’s stock.
The reports shone a spotlight on Indian institutions and the relationship between the conglomerate’s founder Gautam Adani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a febrile atmosphere ahead of elections early next year.
The value of the group’s 10 listed companies dropped by $4.2bn, or 3.3 per cent, on Thursday after the FT and The Guardian exposed opaque offshore structures that shielded some of the group’s largest shareholders, and their connections to the Adani family, from public sight.
Rahul Gandhi, India’s most prominent opposition figure, said “this is a matter of India’s global reputation and it should be investigated”, at a news conference in Mumbai. “We are trying to show the world and our businesses that India has a level playing field,” he added. India is hosting the G-20 summit on September 9-10.
Adani said it categorically rejected what it called “recycled allegations”, and sought to link the reports to billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
The reports were based on documents obtained by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a global network of investigative journalists that is part funded by Soros’ Open Society Foundations. They also revealed the existence of an investigation of the Adani Group by India’s stock market regulator that was closed after Modi came to power in 2014.
After Hindenburg, a US short selling group, had accused Adani of manipulating its share prices in a report published in January, India’s financial regulator told the Supreme Court there had been no such investigations before 2020.
Hindenburg told the FT: “The independent evidence corroborating our work is overwhelming. All eyes are on Indian regulators to see if they will act on that which is now completely obvious.”
Saket Gokhale, spokesperson for the Trinamool National Congress, an opposition party, said he had written to the chair of the Securities and Exchange Board of India “demanding an urgent probe into these allegations against Adani”.
The Adani Group said: “These news reports appear to be yet another concerted bid by Soros-funded interests supported by a section of the foreign media to revive the meritless Hindenburg Report.”
After Adani was contacted for comment last week, BQ Prime, a financial news website that it owns, published an opinion piece that said “known India and Modi government baiters in foreign shores along with their allied toolkit groups were preparing to make another strike in garb of investigative reportage”.
Soros became unpopular among officials in Modi’s government and its supporters after the 93-year old financier and philanthropist said in February that “Modi and business tycoon Adani are close allies; their fate is intertwined”, predicting that the controversy would weaken the administration.
On Thursday, the hashtag #SorosAttacksIndia trended on X, the website formerly known as Twitter.
The Open Society Foundation said it was “proud to be amongst a number of organisations providing support to the OCCRP, which acts entirely independently regarding the issues it chooses to investigate. What we are seeing now in India is a bogus attempt to discredit OCCRP’s work without engaging with its findings.”
Adani’s interests range across infrastructure, power, construction, fuel and media. From a peak market capitalisation of $288bn last year, its 10 listed companies were worth $127bn at the market close on Thursday.