As billionaire battles short-seller, 'IndiaStandsWithAdani' trends online
NEW DELHI, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Many Indians voiced their support for Gautam Adani on Tuesday as the school dropout-turned-billionaire sealed a $2.5 billion share sale in the face of criticism from a U.S. short-seller.
"IndiaStandsWithAdani" was among the top trending hashtags on Twitter in response to losses totalling $65 billion for Adani group stocks since last week's Hindenburg Research report, which flagged concerns over its debt levels and use of tax havens.
"I am proud of my country's billionaire. Indians will not get fooled ... India will not bend in front of any foreign power," tweeted Mukund Jethava, a member of the IT unit of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat state.
Support online mirrored financial backing for Adani Enterprises (ADEL.NS), which despite having 30% anchor bids for its share sale last week had only amassed 3% subscriptions by Monday in the public offering, amid concerns it could fail.
But in the event, the 60-year-old's firm managed to seal the deal before the market closed on Tuesday, thanks to support of corporate and institutional investors, even though the price Adani Enterprises stock was lower than the share sale offer.
Although smaller retail investors did not bid as much, posts with hashtags online included 'IndiaINCSupportsAdani' and #AdaniFPOFullySubscribed and were among the top trending on the social media platform, praising the billionaire.
On Sunday, Adani issued a detailed rebuttal to Hindenburg, calling the short-seller's research report a "calculated attack on India, the independence, integrity and quality of Indian institutions, and the growth story and ambition of India".
Hindenburg has said Adani's response largely confirmed its findings and "ignored" its key questions, adding that it "found Adani's lack of direct and transparent answers" on the allegations of use of offshore entities "telling".
Adani Group's CFO, Jugeshinder Singh, has likened the participation of Indian investors in the recent sell-off to the colonial-era Jallianwala Bagh massacre by British officials.
Asked why the market believed the Hindenburg report, Adani's CFO had said: "In Jallianwala Bagh, only one Englishman gave an order, and Indians fired on other Indians ... So am I surprised by the behaviour of some fellow Indians? No."
Twitter buzzed with various memes questioning the Hindenburg report on Tuesday, and other praised the performance of the Adani group after the secondary share sale was fully subscribed.
"We all are sons of soil and this is once again proven to be true. The indian biz diaspora has stood alongside Adani to weather the storm created by outsiders. #IndiaINCSupportsAdani," trader Himanshu Hirpara said on Twitter.
Another Twitter user said "World Powers are afraid Due to India's GDP growing, we're becoming a soft global power."
The fundraising was critical for Adani, not just because it will help cut his group's debt, but also because it was seen by some as a gauge of confidence at a time when the tycoon faces one of his biggest business and reputational challenges.
Amid all the praise, however, some flagged caution.
"Investors lined up for $2.5 bln despite $66 bln wipeout? Hmm...the #HindenburgReport remains in the public domain and the can of worms is out there," said Sanjay Jha, a former spokesperson of India's opposition Congress party.
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