The giant Queensland Carmichael coal mine is easily Australia’s most controversial resources project – now its owner Adani is feeling fresh heat from a short-seller report.
The Indian-headquartered mining giant has been accused of brazen accounting fraud, stock manipulation and money laundering over the course of decades through a web of international companies including involvement by its Australian operations.
The Adani group of companies is controlled by its founder Gautam Adani, a self-made billionaire, India’s richest man and the fourth wealthiest worldwide after LVMH’s Bernard Arnault, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
The 100-page Adani report detailing what the authors declare is the ‘greatest con in corporate history’ is the work of well-known US short selling outfit Hindenburg which had placed share trading bets that various listed stocks in the Adani empire would plummet after its revelations.
This is the business model for many short sellers: undertake extensive research into a listed company; question the accounts and business operations; and uncover practices a company has used to artificially inflate its profits or assets.
Short sellers armed with this information, buy short positions in the stock before the research is released more widely so they can profit on the trade when the share price of its target falls.
Hindenburg scored a direct financial hit as shares in the various listed companies in the Adani group fell precipitously by $US9 billion. Gautam Adani’s wealth took a hit also – but one he could easily digest. He moved from third to fourth position in the world’s richest rankings.
While controversial, this short seller modus operandi has often unmasked serious financial issues or fraudulent behaviours.
The research, covering the web of companies around the world, several of which are based in tax havens and which were controlled or associated with Adani and his family, took two years to compile.
Even if only some allegations are substantiated it could still prove a major embarrassment for Australian governments and who ultimately approved the Carmichael mine which is now operational.
The Hindenburg release alleges the Adani empire’s Australian subsidiaries were involved in what it calls ’“shuffling losses into private entities to boost reported earnings and surreptitiously moving money to prop up entities to prop up entities in the group”.
It said a private company in the group Carmichael Rail and Port Singapore was involved in transactions involving a related coal mine, railway, and port in Australia.
It detailed how Carmichael Rail and Port acquired assets from publicly listed Adani Enterprises without disclosure by the listed entity with undisclosed loans funded by Adani Enterprises. It then almost immediately wrote down the value of the assets in the same year, enabling Adani Enterprises to potentially avoid a significant loss.
The alleged shuffle involved hundreds of millions of dollars.
There must now be question marks over whether Australian governments did sufficient homework on the Adani empire.
Hindenburg says allegations of stock manipulation in Adani listed companies shouldn’t come as a surprise. The SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) has investigated and prosecuted more than 70 entities and individuals over the years, including Adani promoters, for pumping Adani Enterprises’ stock.
The report also claims to have identified 38 Mauritius shell companies controlled by Adani’s brother Vinod or other close associates.
It said these shell companies “seem to serve several functions, including stock parking/stock manipulation, and laundering money through Adani’s private companies onto the listed companies’ balance sheets in order to maintain the appearance of financial health and solvency.”
The report also questions the group’s financial fundamentals alleging that the Adani Group companies’ use of extreme leverage spells danger.
“Five companies in the group (all but Adani Ports and Adani Wilmar) have current ratios below 1.0, suggesting a heightened short-term liquidity risk,” according to Hindenburg.
There is enough smoke billowing from this extensive report for investors to remain cautious about the listed companies in the Adani group.
Jugeshinder Singh, Adani’s chief financial officer, said: “The timing of the report’s publication clearly betrays a brazen, mala fide intention to undermine the Adani Group’s reputation with the principal objective of damaging the upcoming follow-on public offering from Adani Enterprises. The group has always been in compliance with all laws.”
Source: Thanks smh.com