If there is one quality about Gautam Adani that those who know him agree on, it is that he is a fighter. The 61-year-old Adani’s ability to take adversity head-on has been in ample evidence over the past few months. Ever since a report in January by US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research alleged stock manipulation and other wrongdoings, knocking $100 billion off the group’s market capitalisation, Adani has been busy staving off multiple problems. When Business Today did a cover, ‘Adani Under Attack’, in its March 5, 2023 issue, it seemed the Rs 2.6-lakh crore Adani Group would find it near impossible to get itself out of the rut as its stocks continued to get hammered and foreign banks and rating agencies came up with negative views on it.
Our March cover story, however, said that while Adani faced the biggest crisis of his career, the group’s businesses like ports and airports generated predictable cash flows and had serious assets on the ground. What was required was a calibrated approach to growth and a systematic deleveraging exercise. Cut to August 2023, and Adani appears to be succeeding in getting his beleaguered group out of the crisis. While a Securities and Exchange Board of India probe into the allegations is ongoing, the group is working overtime to ensure it balances its growth ambitions with its capex plans, even as it deleverages key companies and cleans up their balance sheets.
It has reduced net debt in Adani Enterprises, Adani Power and Ambuja Cement, and redeemed promoter pledges. Though it has pared its growth plans in some cases, the ambition of having a massive infrastructure play riding on the India opportunity appears to be intact. Group CFO Jugeshinder Singh tells Anand Adhikari who wrote the cover story in this issue: “We invest for an intergenerational period, upwards of 30 years. We have not even completed the foundation of our growth.” While strategic course corrections are being made, the group’s long-term vision remains unchanged. Elsewhere in this issue, Binu Paul gets you the story on the big shift taking place in the ride-hailing industry, till recently dominated by Ola and Uber.
Ever since the pandemic dealt a body blow to the business, these players have shifted to a profitability-driven strategy, which has led to the slashing of driver incentives while fuel costs and commissions caused a hit for the drivers, leading many to leave the platforms. Alongside, sensing an opportunity, new players like the all-electric BluSmart, inDrive and Drife have entered the sector, giving customers affordable alternatives. This apart, Surabhi analyses the latest BT-C Fore Business Confidence Survey numbers, where the Business Confidence Index has hit a five-quarter high. However, the survey finds enough reason for caution despite the optimism as muted global growth remains a concern.
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