Asia’s richest man amassed billions thanks in part to his longstanding ties to Prime Minister Modi. Now his fortune is falling amid allegations of widespread corruption and stock manipulation.
Indian billionaire Gautam Adani lost $6.5 billion on Wednesday, January 25 after activist investment firm Hindenburg Research published a scathing 100 page report on Adani and his group, alleging massive fraud and stock manipulation. Hindenburg, which disclosed a short position against Adani Group companies, accused Adani of “pulling the largest con in corporate history.”
Adani Group responded with a statement from Chief Financial Officer Jugeshinder Singh that denied the allegations, saying they are “a malicious combination of selective misinformation and stale, baseless and discredited allegations that have been tested and rejected by India’s highest courts” and that Adani Group had not been contacted by Hindenburg.
A college dropout who spurned his father’s textile shop to set up a commodities export firm in 1988, Adani, age 60, has been a longtime ally of India’s Prime Minister Narenda Modi. As Modi has solidified his power, so too has Adani, who now controls key parts of India’s economy, including Mundra Port, India’s largest. He is also the country’s biggest airport operator and, through his seven publicly traded companies, has interests in power generation, cement and green energy. Last year, when many fortunes around the globe fell as a result of tumbling stock markets, Adani’s fortune soared by $55 billion, making him 2022’s biggest billionaire gainer. Even after his recent tumble, at the end of Wednesday he was worth $119.1 billion, $112 billion more than he was worth in 2014, when Forbes first dug into his ties with Modi, then the chief minister of Adani’s home state of Gujarat.
Here is Forbes Asia’s’ 2014 story on Gautam Adani, “Doing Big Business In Modi’s Gujarat,” republished in full.
By Megha Bahree
When his son was married in the coastal state of Goa last year, Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s guest list included the richest man in the country and many a chief executive and top banker and bureaucrat. Most, however, just stopped by the night before to bless the happy couple and skipped the actual wedding. But one prominent friend stayed through all the ceremonies over a couple of days, genial and relaxed like a favorite uncle. It was Narendra Modi, chief minister of Adani’s home state of Gujarat.
Ranked No. 609 in the world with an estimated worth of $2.8 billion, Adani runs India’s largest port, a power company and a commodities trading business. A large chunk of his business is located in Gujarat, and the government under Modi, who has been running the state since 2001 and now is the favored prime ministerial candidate in the national elections this spring, has been more generous to Adani than to any other industrialist there.
Adani has, over the years, leased 7,350 hectares—much of which he got from 2005 onward—from the government in an area called Mundra in the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat. FORBES ASIA has copies of the agreements that show he got the 30-year, renewable leases for as little as one U.S. cent a square meter (the rate maxed out at 45 cents a square meter). He in turn has sublet this land to other companies, including state-owned Indian Oil Co., for as much as $11 a square meter. Between 2005 and 2007 at least 1,200 hectares of grazing land was taken away from villagers.