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Explainer-Mystery behind slump in India’s Adani Group company shares

(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Indian billionaire Gautam Adani speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad April 2, 2014. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo

By Sudarshan Varadhan and Abhirup Roy

CHENNAI (Reuters) -Shares of companies controlled by Indian billionaire Gautam Adani recorded their biggest weekly losses ever. The six stocks cumulatively lost 1.91 trillion Indian rupees ($25.83 billion) of value over five days through Friday.

THE FUNDS

Indian newspaper Economic Times reported on Monday the accounts of three Mauritius-based funds, which are among the top foreign investors in Adani group companies, had been frozen by the National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL).

The NSDL website showed accounts held by the three funds frozen as of May 31, among thousands of others, without citing a reason, according to a review by Reuters. The exact date of the freeze is unknown and the accounts remained frozen on Friday, according to the website.

DENIALS, CONTRADICTIONS

The Adani Group firms, in identical statements issued to stock exchanges, rejected media reports, including in the Economic Times, as “blatantly erroneous.”

The companies, which are in the businesses of operating airports and ports, power generation and transmission, coal and gas trading, said the accounts in which the funds hold Adani shares were not frozen.

NSDL and India’s securities regulator SEBI did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

But a senior NSDL official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters on Monday the funds have multiple accounts and that the Adani shares were held in other accounts that were not frozen, adding that freeze was “not new”.

The shares of the Adani companies however have continued to fall.

THE FUNDS

The three foreign funds – Albula Investment Fund, Cresta Fund and APMS Investment Fund – are all registered at the same address, according to the Mauritius financial regulator.

The funds cumulatively control 2.7% of all shares in the Adani Group companies as on June 11, calculations based on an e-mail sent by Adani executive to NSDL and reviewed by Reuters showed.

Two other Mauritius-based funds that are also investors in Adani companies – LTS Investment Fund and Asia Investment Corp – are also registered at the same address.

Reuters was unable to find a website for all five funds, and calls to the phone numbers provided to Mauritius regulators went unanswered.

The five funds deployed 94.4%-97.9% of their total capital in Adani companies’ shares, data by Indian stocks analysis firm Trendlyne showed.

Reuters could not independently verify Trendlyne data.

Four of the six Adani stocks have a public shareholding of about 25% – the minimum level mandated by regulators for companies listed on Indian exchanges.

Indian stock exchange data shows most shares of Adani Group companies are held by trusts controlled by Adani. Foreign portfolio investors are the next largest shareholders, while retail and domestic investors typically control about 5%.

THE IMPACT

After falling 0.4-8.5% on Monday, the day of the Economic Times report, Adani group stocks fell between 7.1%-22.6% over the week compared with last Friday’s close, wiping out nearly 22% of the gains in the year preceding this week.

The decline saw the firms’ cumulative market capitalisation decline by over a sixth.

Flagship Adani Enterprises rose 8.76% and Adani Ports rose 7.33% on Friday, but the four other Adani stocks each closed 5% lower.

Jimeet Modi, founder of Mumbai-based Samco Securities, said the jump in the two stocks was due to some investors buying the shares after the steep fall in prices this week, but added that the stocks were “still in a bear market”.

“I don’t think the market is convinced with the quality of the clarification from the Adani group,” Modi told Reuters.

($1 = 73.9120 Indian rupees)

Explainer-Mystery behind slump in India’s Adani Group company shares

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