Exclusive-India's LIC to 'engage' with Adani after short seller's allegation
By Nikunj Ohri
NEW DELHI (Reuters) -State-run Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), India's largest insurer, is reviewing Adani Group's response to scathing criticism by a U.S. short-seller and will hold talks with the group's management within days to seek clarifications.
LIC has invested more than $4 billion in the group, which has lost about $66 billion since Hindenburg Research flagged concerns early last week about the business house's debt levels and the use of tax havens.
Adani, founded by Asia's richest person, Gautam Adani, says it complies with all local laws and has made the necessary regulatory disclosures.
"Presently there is a situation that's emerging and we are not sure what is the factual position ... Since we are a large investor, we have the right to ask relevant questions and we will definitely engage with them," LIC Managing Director Raj Kumar told Reuters.
LIC said in a statement it had invested 364.7 billion rupees ($4.47 billion) in Adani companies, about 1% of its assets under management. It added that Adani debt securities held by LIC were rated AA and above, which was in compliance with India's investment regulations for life insurance companies.
"Of course, we are studying the 413-page reply given by Adani Group," Kumar said on Monday about the group's response to concerns raised by Hindenburg.
"We will also see if the concerns are addressed. If we believe the concerns are not addressed, we will seek further clarification from them. We will engage with them in a day or two and seek their views and clarification."
LIC owned a 4.23% stake in the flagship Adani Enterprises as of end-December, more than 9% in Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone, nearly 6% in Adani Total Gas and 3.65% in Adani Transmission, data from the Bombay Stock Exchange shows.
Kumar's comments came after Adani said in a statement late on Sunday that its "strategic and long-term investors have reposed complete faith and confidence in the group".
Kumar said that LIC looks at "the long-term view unless there is something going very bad".
"Presently, we don't see any kind of this thing," he said of Adani.
"We have to gather all the information, clarifications; and a further call will be taken after that. The decision will also be based on an independent risk-assessment, internal risk-assessment, business profile and growth trajectory."
($1 = 81.6120 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Nikunj OhriEditing by David Goodman, Raju Gopalakrishnan)