THE WORD 'RESILIENCE' has great significance for Gautam Adani, chairman, Adani Group. Addressing the annual general meeting after the controversial Hindenburg Research report caused his group's wealth to erode by almost half, Adani told shareholders, "When I look back along this journey (since the IPO of flagship Adani Enterprises 30 years ago), if there is one characteristic that has continued to define us, it has been our resilience." He elaborated on what resilience meant for him and the 44,000-plus Adani Group employees — to get up stronger after setbacks, belief in the nation and the passion to follow one's dreams.

On January 24, when the Hindenburg Research report came out accusing it of financial fraud and stock manipulation, the market capitalisation of Adani Group was ₹19.18 lakh crore. Till then, the valuation of Adani Group companies has been rising, catapulting Gautam Adani's wealth from about $9 billion in 2020 to $90 billion in 2022. Within 10 days of the report, the group's market cap fell to about ₹10 lakh crore. Flagship Adani Enterprises (AEL) had to call off the ₹20,000-crore follow-on public offering (FPO), the biggest in India's history.

Though the worst crisis in Gautam Adani's four-decade-old business life shook the empire, the 61-year-old remained unfazed. "Fundamentals of our companies are very strong, balance sheets healthy and assets robust. Ebitda and cash flows are strong and we have an impeccable track record of fulfilling our debt obligations," Adani told investors, while calling off the FPO.

His words were vindicated by the group's performance in FY23. While total income grew 85% to ₹2,62,499 crore, PAT increased 82% to ₹23,509 crore and Ebitda rose 36% to ₹57,219 crore. "The group's accelerating cash flow further improved our net debt to run rate Ebitda ratio from 3.2x to 2.8x," Adani told investors.

He assured them that growth prospects were rosy, noting that incubation businesses under Adani Enterprises accounted for 50% of its Ebitda in FY23. The Navi Mumbai Airport was readying for launch by 2024 and plans to set up a copper smelter were also on track. The volume of Adani Enterprises' main business — integrated resource management — increased 37% to 88 million metric tonnes (MMT) in FY23. Data centre JV AdaniConneX is on course to soon set up a 1GW capacity.

Adani's biggest bet in infra development — a target of 45GW renewable energy capacity by 2030 — is on course. The operational green energy portfolio grew 49% YoY to over 8GW in FY23. During the year, Adani Green Energy commissioned the world's largest hybrid solar wind project of 2.14GW in Rajasthan. The group is also building the world's largest hybrid renewables park at Khavda in the state on over 72,000 acres with a 20GW capacity.

Adani's ports and logistics business, with 13 ports and a total capacity of 580 MMT, is also gaining ground. Adani Ports and SEZ Ltd. (APSEZ) is the country's largest integrated transport utility and handled a record 339 MMT of cargo in FY23, a 9% growth YoY. It is amongst the most profitable port operators globally with an Ebitda margin of 70%. The group has set a target to be the world's most profitable port company by 2030, handling 1 billion tonnes of cargo annually. The recent acquisition of Haifa Port in Israel, commissioning of India's largest transshipment hub in Vizhinjam and a port in Colombo within one-two years are steps in that direction.

Adani Power, which commissioned the 1.6GW ultra-supercritical Godda plant to supply power to Bangladesh, is also adding a similar 1.6GW project in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh. The power transmission business is stabilising as well, with revenues estimated to increase 18% and cross ₹4,000 crore in FY24. Another group company that showed growth in FY23 was Adani Total Gas, with 46% increase in revenues to ₹4,683 crore. Adani Cements, the country's second-largest cement maker, is also expanding. Subsidiary Ambuja Cements recently bought a 57% stake in Ahmedabad-based Sanghi Industries for ₹5,000 crore.

Adani says he owes the "success achieved in life to investors." After the decrease in market valuations, he is treading cautiously, trying to regain investor confidence. The family recently raised $1.38 billion (₹11,330 crore) through stake sale in three portfolio companies — AEL, AGEL and ATL — to ensure higher capital availability at the group level for growth as well as near-term commitments of both debt and equity over the next 12-18 months. A similar stake sale by the family in March 2023 aggregating to $1.87 billion (₹15,446 crore) was to fund prepayment of margin-linked, share-backed debt.

Adani has long-term investors backing him. He has mobilised over $9 billion from marquee investors since 2019, funding expansion plans that catapulted his wealth as well as the group's market capitalisation. Primary investors include the likes of Qatar Investment Authority, Total Energies, International Holding Company and GQG Partners, along with co-investors such as the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Goldman Sachs, University of Texas and a number of pension funds.

Despite the Hindenburg setback, Gautam Adani has shown resilience to get back on the growth track. After all, 'resilience' is what drove him to become the world's third richest until a few months ago.

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