India's Adani Group CFO says stocks rout similar to colonial-era massacre
By Krishna N. Das
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's Adani Group has said a U.S. short-seller's report on the business house was a "calculated attack" on the country and its institutions while a senior executive has compared a rout of its stocks with a colonial-era massacre.
Adani's seven listed companies have lost about $65 billion in total since Hindenburg Research on Jan. 24 raised concerns about the coal-to-ports group's high debt levels and the use of offshore entities in tax havens, charges the group has denied. Founder Gautam Adani has dropped from being the world's third-richest person to the eighth.
"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," the Adani Group said late on Sunday in a 413-page response to Hindenburg's allegations.
Adani's finance chief, Jugeshinder Singh, likened the behaviour of Indian investors participating in the sell-off to the colonial-era Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar city.
On April 13, 1919, a British officer ordered about 50 Indian army soldiers to shoot at unarmed civilians who were taking part in a peaceful protest. At least 379 people were killed, according to the official record, although local residents have said in the past the toll was far higher.
"In Jallianwala Bagh, only one Englishman gave an order, and Indians fired on other Indians," Singh told the Mint business daily in an interview published on Monday, when asked why the market believed the Hindenburg report.
"So am I surprised by the behaviour of some fellow Indians? No."
India's government has not commented on the Hindenburg allegations.
Hindenburg said in a statement on Monday that the Adani Group was trying to "lead the focus away from substantive issues and instead stoked a nationalist narrative".
"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," it said.
Opposition politicians have said Adani does not represent the whole of India.
Jawhar Sircar, a lawmaker from the opposition Trinamool Congress, posted on Twitter: "Since when is Adani = India?"
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das)