(Bloomberg) -- Asia’s richest man, Gautam Adani, plans to sell shares to the public in at least five companies between 2026 and 2028, helping the port-to-power conglomerate improve debt ratios and broaden its investor base.
“At least five units will be ready to go to the market in the next three to five years,” Jugeshinder Singh, Adani Group chief financial officer said in an interview. He said Adani New Industries Ltd., Adani Airport Holdings Ltd., Adani Road Transport Ltd., AdaniConnex Pvt Ltd. and the group’s metals and mining units would become independent units.
Singh said businesses such as the airport operator are consumer platforms servicing nearly 300 million customers and need to operate on their own and manage their capital requirements for further growth. He said the businesses would need to show they can clear the basic tests of independent execution, operations and capital management before a formal demerger can be implemented.
“Scale is already there for the five units,” Singh said. The “airport business is already independent, while Adani New Industries is going strong on the green energy side. Adani Road is demonstrating new build-operate-transfer models to the nation, while the data center business will grow further. Metals and mining would cover our aluminum, copper and mining services.”
Billionaire Adani has faced criticism over the group’s rapid expansion from a traditional port operator to a sprawling conglomerate with assets including media, cement and green energy that some say has increased debt and financial complexity. Research firm CreditSights red-flagged the Adani Group’s “elevated” leverage last year. The group pushed back against the report, calling leverage ratios “healthy.”
Most of the tycoon’s companies have seen a blistering stock rally in the past few years, vaulting Adani up the wealth rankings past Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates to a net worth of almost $121 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Flagship Adani Enterprises Ltd. has surged more than 1,300% since early 2020, Adani Total Gas Ltd. by more than 2,100%, Adani Green Energy Ltd. has jumped more than 900% while Adani Transmission Ltd. by 725%, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Adani Enterprises is slated to sell new shares at a discount and allow payments in three installments when it rolls out a $2.5 billion follow-on offer later this month — an unusual move for one of the country’s major stocks that is designed to attract domestic mom-and-pop investors. A diversified shareholder base would help make the thinly traded stock more liquid and provide funds to pay down debt.
The follow-on offer “is a good first step,” said Chakri Lokapriya, Mumbai-based managing director at TCG Asset Management. “And the proceeds of IPOs of five or six companies, can be used to further cut debt.”
Adani Group has consistently aligned itself to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda. It has pledged more than $70 billion to help India pivot from being a fossil fuel importer to a generator of renewable energy.
“These demergers will result in massive cash flow and make the conglomerate a more valuable platform globally showcasing India’s prowess of infrastructure,” Singh said.
--With assistance from Ruchi Bhatia.
(Updates with Adani Group cos share performance in the sixth paragraph.)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.