Analysis | Who Is Gautam Adani and What Is Hindenburg Research?


Allegations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud from New York-based investor Hindenburg Research against Adani Group are piling pressure on the Indian conglomerate and its 60-year-old founder. Gautam Adani became Asia’s richest man last year and was second only to Elon Musk in the world at one point. Unlike Musk, Adani is relatively unknown outside his home country. Here’s some background. 

1. Who is Gautam Adani? What’s his net worth?

Adani was born to a small textile merchant family in 1962 in the western industrial state of Gujarat. He dropped out of university and began his career sorting diamonds for a firm in the financial hub of Mumbai. He later imported materials used in manufactured goods and by the mid-1990s was managing the Mundra Port, which he now owns. While his net worth took a beating in the days after Hindenburg’s report was published on Jan. 24, he was still in the top 10 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index as of late January.

2. How does Adani make money?

Adani Group today comprises half a dozen major companies with interests ranging from energy to transportation and infrastructure development. It’s India’s largest port operator and manages some of the country’s biggest airports. Adani Enterprises, the group’s listed trading house, reported $9.3 billion in sales in the year through March 31, 2022. 

3. What are Adani’s companies?

Adani Green Energy Ltd. (Renewable power generation) 

Adani Enterprises Ltd. – (Coal mining and trading)

Adani Transmission Ltd. (Power transmission)

Adani Total Gas Ltd. (Gas distribution)

Adani Power Ltd.  (Coal-fired power generation) 

The Adani Group also runs a real estate business, a shadow banking firm named Adani Capital and an edible oil and food business via a venture with Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd. 

4. What are Adani’s political connections?

The tycoon is seen as closer to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also hails from Gujarat state, than any other Indian billionaire. Adani’s corporate strategy has run in parallel with Modi’s efforts to develop India’s $3.2 trillion economy. When Modi promised to bring reliable electricity to more Indians, Adani doubled down on coal-fired power production. The alignment extends to foreign affairs. In 2021, Adani began construction of a major port facility in Sri Lanka. Officials from both countries said the plan was encouraged by the Modi government, which wants to curb Chinese influence in the island nation. Whether building expressways or upgrading data centers, Adani can be counted on to provide money, infrastructure, or expertise, whatever the policy priority.

5. Why did shares in Adani Group companies fall?

They quickly lost roughly $50 billion in market value after Hindenburg Research, founded by short-seller Nathan Anderson, issued a 100-page report containing wide-ranging allegations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud that it said dated back decades. The Adani Group dismissed the report as “maliciously mischievous” and said it’s exploring legal action as well as preparing a detailed rebuttal. 

6. What is Hindenburg Research?

Anderson’s firm — technically a research and trading outfit, not a hedge fund with outside investors — is less than five years old and wagers its own money in the markets. Even in Manhattan’s financial circles, Anderson is hardly a big name. The closely held firm specializes in forensic financial research, according to its website. It first attracted Wall Street’s attention in 2020 for raising serious questions about electric-vehicle makers Nikola Corp. and Lordstown Motors Corp. 

(An earlier version corrected the spelling of Shuli Ren in Reference Shelf)

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