The US-based investor-research firm Hindenburg Research on January 24 published a 32,000-word report on the Adani Group titled Adani Group: How The World’s 3rd Richest Man Is Pulling The Largest Con In Corporate History. The report accused the Adani Group of engaging in ‘brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme over the course of decades.’ CNBC reported that the company lost over $100 billion in about a week since the publication of the report.
Hindenburg shared its report on Twitter at 8:15 am on January 25. The Adani Group released a media statement at 2.21 pm on the same day and came out with a detailed response on January 29, which called the report ‘a lie’ and ‘a malicious combination of selective misinformation and concealed facts relating to baseless and discredited allegations to drive an ulterior motive’. On February 2, after the company’s stock price crashed 28%, Adani Enterprises called off its Rs 20,000 crore follow-on public offer (FPO) and said that the money would be returned to investors.
This report analyses how the Indian media covered the Hindenburg-Adani saga in the first few hours after the report and the first Adani response came out at 8:15 pm and 2:21 pm IST, respectively, on January 25. The readers should note that a Reuters story by Chris Thomas and Aditya Kalra shared at 9:22 am on Twitter was possibly the first news report on the whole incident.
Hindenburg says holds short positions in India’s Adani, flags risks https://t.co/q6oME8P53T
— Ira Dugal (@dugalira) January 25, 2023
Before reading our report, the readers should note our research methodology —
- TV News: We checked how many primetime debates were conducted on January 25 and 26 on the subject.
- Print News: We checked front page coverage by the leading print media outlets on January 26
- Online News: We analyzed online reports posted by mainstream news outlets between 8.15 am (when the Hindenburg Research report was published on Twitter) to 8.30 PM (six hours after Adani Group’s first response on Twitter). We used Meta’s CrowdTangle to source this data. (The readers can view our database for TV and Online reports here.)
A No-show on Primetime TV News
All major TV channels did the same thing when it came to discussing the Hindenburg report or the initial Adani response on January 25 & 26 — they chose not to. None of the following channels — News 18, India Today, Republic, Times Now, NDTV, WION, (English news) and Zee News, News 18 Hindi, NDTV India, India TV, Aaj Tak, and Republic Bharat (Hindi) — covered the issue on their primetime shows on January 25 and 26.
One of the most discussed topics on January 25 was the tension in various academic institutes over the screening of the BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots. The next day, most primetime shows were related to India’s 74th Republic Day. The slide show below shows stills from all the channels mentioned above.
On January 26, the following English-language dailies carried a report on the front page — LiveMint, The Times of India, The Economic Times, Business Standard, Financial Times, The Hindu, Hindustan Times, and The Telegraph. Among these, LiveMint, Business Standard, The Telegraph, The Hindu and HT pegged their stories on the accusations by Hindenburg, while Financial Times, TOI and ET focused on the Adani response in the front page stories.
However, a contrasting trend was observed among other-language dailies such as Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi), Dainik Jagran (Hindi), Prabhat Kesri (Hindi), Navbharat (Hindi) and Lokmat (Marathi). They chose not to carry any report on the issue on their front pages.
Interestingly, on January 28, the New Delhi edition of The Indian Express, The Hindu and The Times of India carried a jacket (a full front page ad) from the Adani Group in English and Maharashtra Times carried it in Marathi. It gave a general overview of the conglomerate’s various business ventures.
Social Media Coverage
Posts on Facebook by media outlets after Hindenburg Research report
After the report by Hindenburg Research was published, 37 posts related to the Adani Group were shared on Facebook by mainstream media outlets within the above-mentioned time frame. Alt News noticed that about 30% of them (11 out of the 37) did not mention the allegations by Hindenburg Research.
What did these 11 reports talk about?
Mirror Now and Dainik Jagran reported that Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani had slipped to the fourth position in Bloomberg Billionaires Index. However, they didn’t explain why.
Similarly, News 18 published a report titled ‘Sensex Tumbles 850pts, Bank Nifty Crashes 1000 pts; Why is Market Falling Today?’ This report includes a section (see image below) on the drop in multiple Adani Group share prices. However, the author didn’t explain why. There is no mention of the allegations by Hindenburg Research.
Navbharat Times Online shared an explainer on Adani Group’s excessive debt. However, it did not mention the allegations by Hindenburg Research. The same video was posted by Economic Times Hindi.
The reports shared by Live Mint and Business Today deserve special mention. Both encouraged readers to invest in Anadni Enterprise FPO and Adani Wilmar stock. While the former was later called off, the latter dropped significantly since January 25.
Maharashtra Times published an article on Gautam Adani’s views on ChatGPT, an AI-powered chatbot by OpenAI.
Posts on Facebook by media outlets after Adani Group’s response
After the media statement by the Adani Group was out, 64 reports related to the conglomerate were shared on Facebook by mainstream media outlets within the time frame in our purview. This is significantly more than the number of posts after the report became public.
As many as 18 news outlets posted reports about the Women’s IPL auction where the Adani Group had made the highest bid for the Ahmedabad team, but didn’t share any report about the allegations made by Hindenburg Research. These media outlets are — ABP Live, afaqs!, Ahmedabad Mirror, Gujarat Samachar, Gujarati Mid Day, Hindustan Times, Maharashtra Times, Mumbai Tak, NDTV, NEWS9, Oneindia Bengali, Oneindia Gujarati, Tamil The Hindu, The Quint, The Statesman, The Tribune, and The Print. The news outlets mentioned in bold above had at least one other entity from the same stable reporting on the Hindenburg report. It’s worth noting that Adani Group has significant investments in NDTV and The Quint.
To sum it up, analyzing the mainstream media’s immediate response to the Hindenburg-Adani saga, Alt News found —
- Major TV news channels ignored the subject in their primetime shows for two days.
- English-language national dailies covered this issue on their front page on the day after the Hindenburg Research report went public.
- Multiple news outlets published online reports about Adani Group’s investment in Women’s IPL, completely ignoring questions raised by Hindenburg Research.
- Many media outlets rushed into reporting on the subject only after the Adani Group put out a media statement.
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