Malaysia’s richest man, a powerful shipping tycoon and the world’s two wealthiest families are just a few of the high-profile names caught up in the unravelling of Gautam Adani’s empire.
From Virginia to Marseille to the Middle East, investors and joint-venture partners of various Adani businesses are suddenly exposed to the most dramatic selloff in India’s corporate history. The partners, whose tie-ups involve data-centre servicing, packaged food and port management, among others, exemplify the far-reaching tentacles of the Indian conglomerate that was accused of fraud last week by short-seller Hindenburg Research.
Adani Group grew at a breakneck pace in recent years, with parent entity Adani Enterprises Ltd. surging more than 1,600% in the 12 months to its apex in December. That briefly made founder Adani the second-richest person on Earth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Much of that growth, according to the Hindenburg report, was fueled by excessive debt and “brazen stock manipulation.” Adani has denied all the allegations.
The string of partnerships that Adani formed with billionaires and corporations like Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart are one way in which the Gujarati mogul was able to expand so quickly. Yet relative to the market value of the various Adani enterprises, the joint ventures are small, with some only struck within the last two years as his empire’s share price was surging.
The turmoil surrounding his businesses means consequences that will reverberate far beyond India. Here are some of the magnates and corporations exposed to Adani’s crisis:
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- Wilmar International, controlled by the family of Malaysia's richest person, Hong Kong resident Robert Kuok, is one of Adani’s oldest partners. Their joint venture, Adani Wilmar Ltd., has a market value of 547.2 billion rupees (US$6.7 billion or $8.81 billion). Among India’s fastest-growing packaged-food companies, it sells flour, sugar and other staples. Wilmar provides the food expertise while Adani handles logistics and navigates regulatory issues. Wilmar said this week that the Hindenburg report hadn’t raised any issues specific to the independently managed joint venture, which they intend to continue supporting.
- Retail giant Walmart, roughly half of which is owned by the world’s second-richest family, the Waltons, is exposed to Adani companies through its Indian subsidiary Flipkart. The subcontinent’s dominant e-commerce business, Flipkart struck a partnership with Adani Logistics in 2021 to strengthen its “supply chain infrastructure” whereby Adani would host a new data centre and build and lease to Flipkart a 534,000-square foot fulfilment centre in Mumbai. An announcement from Adani at the time said the partnership would create 2,500 direct jobs and “thousands” of indirect ones. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart didn’t respond to requests for comment.
- EdgeConneX, a Virginia-based data-centre services company owned by private equity firm EQT AB, created a 50-50 joint venture with Adani Group in 2021 to develop one gigawatt of data-centre capacity across India, with the centres largely powered by renewable energy. An EdgeConneX announcement at the time said both groups intended to invest unspecified “significant capital” in the partnership over the next decade. Phillip Marangella, EdgeConneX’s chief marketing and product officer said the Hindenburg accusations “have had no effect” on the joint venture and that Adani “has been a valued partner with great assets, capabilities and a proven track record of delivery.”
- CMA CGM, the world’s third-biggest container shipping company, signed a 15-year deal with Adani Group in 2017 to run a terminal at Mundra Port, India’s largest private facility. Marseille, France-based CMA is majority-owned by Chief Executive Officer Rodolphe Saade and his two siblings. The family is worth US$18.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg index. CMA didn’t respond to requests for comment.
- Adani’s recent acquisition of Israel’s second-largest port — and biggest cruise ship hub — in Haifa came through a venture with Gadot Group, a chemicals supplier owned by two Israeli investment firms. Adani and Gadot won the government tender to run the port last year for US$1.2 billion and formally cemented the deal earlier this week at an event in Haifa. In attendance was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who touted the “connectivity” the port could offer between Israel and India. Gadot Group didn’t respond to requests for comment.
- Abu Dhabi-based International Holding Co. isn’t strictly a venture partner of Adani’s, but it’s one of the group’s most critical backers. The firm’s majority owner is Royal Group, a vehicle belonging to Sheikh Tahnoon, the United Arab Emirates’ national security adviser and a member of the world’s richest family. IHC has invested almost US$2 billion in various Adani businesses. IHC expressed confidence in Adani in the aftermath of the Hindenburg report and invested about US$400 million in its parent group’s follow-on share sale. The funds were returned after Adani yanked the offering this week.