TotalEnergies, one of the largest foreign investors in Adani, has said it had carried out due diligence “consistent with best practices” when investing $3.1bn in the Indian group targeted by fraud allegations that have triggered a $100bn stock rout.
The figure did not include its $4bn investment in a green hydrogen venture with Adani announced last year, through which it will buy a 25 per cent stake in Adani New Industries Limited (ANIL). That deal had not yet closed by the end of 2022.
“TotalEnergies’ investments in Adani’s entities were undertaken in full compliance with applicable — namely Indian — laws, and with TotalEnergies’ own internal governance processes,” said Total. It added that it “welcomes the announcement by Adani to mandate one of the ‘big four’ accounting firms to carry out a general audit”.
Total’s defence comes after short seller Hindenburg Research alleged last week that Adani Group had engaged in stock manipulation and accounting fraud, and said it had taken positions betting against the group. The report led to a sell-off in Adani shares, which forced the conglomerate to call off a $2.4bn share sale.
Hindenburg’s claims have become a leading attack line for opposition parties in India, who allege that tycoon Gautam Adani’s rise was helped by close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, something both sides deny.
India’s parliament adjourned on Friday for the second time after the Congress party demanded a probe into the share rout. The party has also called for nationwide protests against Adani on Monday.
S&P Dow Jones Indices on Thursday evening removed the conglomerate’s flagship Adani Enterprises from its sustainability index following what it described as a “media and stakeholder analysis triggered by allegations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud”.
Adani has responded furiously to Hindenburg’s allegations, calling them malicious, discredited and an “attack on India”.
Shares in Adani Enterprises fell 15 per cent before recovering on Friday, after dropping sharply following the cancellation of the share sale on Wednesday night. Adani said it acted after the sell-off left the value of shares far lower than the price at which they were offered to investors.
Mohit Ralhan, chief executive of TIW Capital, an asset management company, said Hindenburg’s report “threatens to undermine investor confidence in India more broadly, and in the nation’s regulatory framework”.
Adani has tried to reassure investors about its financial footing. The reversal over its share sale prompted investors and analysts to question whether the group will be able to finance upcoming debt payments. Adani’s total debt has doubled to about $30bn since 2019.
Gautam Adani said on Thursday that his group had “an impeccable track record of fulfilling our debt obligations”.
The group is seeking to repay some loans to creditors early in order to free up stock in group companies that it had pledged as collateral, said a person familiar with the matter.
Fitch Ratings said on Friday that Hindenburg’s report would have “no immediate impact” on Adani’s credit profiles, given the cash flows generated by its portfolio of infrastructure assets such as ports, airports and power plants.
Bonds for Adani Group companies were mixed on Friday. An Adani Ports bond maturing in 2024 rose 14 cents on the dollar to $0.83, while another 2024 bond from Adani Green Energy fell 3 cents to $0.63.
India’s National Stock Exchange on Friday increased surveillance of trading in group companies Adani Enterprises, Adani Ports and Ambuja Cements. The exchange toughened margin requirements for trades, a move to curb short selling by making trading more expensive.