Billionaires: Gautam Adani JV seeks first loan since Hindenburg setback

In our fortnightly round-up of the world’s super wealthy, Richard Branson’s space empire gets a 'bruising' reality check and the heirs of Czech billionaire Petr Kellner file a suit over helicopter crash

Gautam Adani's net worth in February fell to $39.9 billion in the aftermath of the Hindenburg Research report. Reuters
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Gautam Adani

An Adani Group joint venture with EdgeConneX is in talks with about half a dozen banks for a loan of about $220 million, which would be the conglomerate’s first offshore borrowing since it was targeted by shortseller Hindenburg Research in January.

Data centre provider AdaniConneX Private would use the money for capital expenditure, with a five-year tenor under discussion, according to sources. The loan may be signed in the next few weeks, they said.

A representative for the Adani Group declined to comment.

The conglomerate, backed by Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, has been forced to re-evaluate its ambitions after US-based Hindenburg accused it of stock manipulation and accounting fraud. While the group has denied the allegations, its stock and bond prices slumped.

Watch: How India's Gautam Adani lost title as Asia's richest man

How India's Gautam Adani lost title as Asia's richest man

How India's Gautam Adani lost title as Asia's richest man

In January, Mr Adani's flagship company Adani Enterprises shelved a plan to raise as much as 10 billion Indian rupees ($121 million) in what would have been its first public sale of bonds.

Data compiled by Bloomberg show no US dollar bonds and loans taken out by Adani Green Energy, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone and Adani Enterprises since the report was released.

Adani Group executives met US investors as part of its plans to market privately placed bonds of as much as $1 billion in two tranches this year, Bloomberg reported late last month.

In February, Mr Adani's net worth fell to $39.9 billion in the aftermath of the Hindenburg report.

The former centibillionaire's personal fortune peaked last September, when he was worth $150 billion and briefly overtook Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as the world's second-richest person.

He is currently the world's 23rd-richest person with a net worth of $54.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Richard Branson

Billionaire Richard Branson’s space empire is getting a bruising reality check.

Virgin Orbit Holdings, the satellite-launch company that only a few months ago was poised to play a major role in Britain’s space programme, filed for bankruptcy last Tuesday after cash dried up.

That dragged down the stock of Mr Branson’s other space company, Virgin Galactic Holdings, whose shares hit the lowest level this year.

The woes are a black eye for Mr Branson, a pioneer of the private space industry.

He has backed ventures in that market since the early 2000s, with the prototype SpaceShipOne flying to the edge of space in 2004.

Virgin Orbit began in 2017 as an offshoot of Virgin Galactic and listed in December 2021 at the height of the special-purpose acquisition company boom.

The bankruptcy plea is yet another example of a SPAC gone bad for longer-term investors, said Timothy Galpin, a senior lecturer in strategy and innovation at the University of Oxford’s Said Business School.

“It will likely damage Branson’s brand at least a bit, as the private space industry is high profile and any news, good or bad, is widely publicised.”

Mr Branson has become a face of the industry alongside fellow billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, particularly after the British mogul’s 2021 space flight.

Enthusiasm around that mission, aboard Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spaceship, sent Virgin Galactic’s market value above $13 billion.

That company has had its struggles since. After Mr Branson’s flight, it was revealed that the craft had deviated from its intended flight path during the trip, prompting a federal investigation.

Virgin Galactic space launch — in pictures

While the Federal Aviation Administration ultimately cleared Virgin Galactic to resume space flights in 2021, the company then announced it would pause flights to upgrade its vehicles. The company has since repeatedly delayed the start of commercial operations.

Virgin Orbit, meanwhile, burnt through cash while pursuing air-based launch technology.

The company was set to boost its profile with the first-ever launch from UK soil last January, but the failure of that mission dealt a blow.

Virgin Orbit halted operations in March and subsequently laid off the majority of its staff after failing to secure funding — and getting no lifeline from Mr Branson.

While Mr Branson has no operational role in Virgin Orbit, his Virgin Group Holdings is the majority owner of its shares. Virgin Investment is the largest shareholder in Virgin Galactic, with an 11 per cent stake.

“Branson obviously hasn’t kept up with his fellow space entrepreneurs, Musk and Bezos, and at this point it doesn’t look like he will,” said Mr Galpin.

Petr Kellner

The heirs of Petr Kellner filed a lawsuit in Alaska over the backcountry helicopter crash that killed the Czech billionaire and four others two years ago.

In the suit, widow Renata Kellnerova and her family are seeking to investigate “potential negligence” that led directly or indirectly to the fatal crash by the helicopter operator as well as by participants in the rescue mission, their company PPF Group said.

Renata Kellnerova and her family are seeking to investigate potential negligence that led directly or indirectly to the fatal crash by the helicopter operator as well as by participants in the rescue mission
PPF Group, the Kellner family company

The family, which has a net worth of $12.4 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, originally wanted to withhold legal action until the publication of the official report into the accident by US authorities, according to the group.

But since the investigation hasn’t been completed, the family filed the paperwork days before the two-year statute of limitations expired on March 27.

The family owns 98.9 per cent of the investment company with assets totalling more than €40 billion ($43.4 billion) in industries, including financial services, telecoms, media, engineering, biotech and property.

Ms Kellnerova is the largest shareholder with a 59.4 per cent stake.

Then aged 56, Mr Kellner died when an Airbus AS350 B3 helicopter went down near the Knik Glacier. He had been on a heli-skiing holiday at a remote luxury lodge located a 40-minute flight from Anchorage.

Mr Kellner began building PPF shortly after the fall of Communism during the sale of state assets in a voucher-for-shares programme, eventually becoming the Czech Republic’s richest person.

Amancio Ortega

Amancio Ortega, the billionaire founder of Zara owner Inditex, has paid €100 million for a luxury apartment building in Dublin, his first deal in Ireland.

The building, called Opus, is located at number 6 of Hanover Quay, in the area of Grand Canal Dock, and houses 120 flats, according to a spokesman for Mr Ortega’s family office, Pontegadea Inversiones.

The building was bought from Angelo Gordon and Carysfort Capital.

Opus is Pontegadea’s third investment in luxury flats and offers the latest example of the family office’s push to diversify from high-end commercial real estate and offices.

It also underscores Pontegadea’s efforts to expand its geographical presence beyond eight countries where it already operates.

Pontegadea manages the dividends that Mr Ortega receives from his 59 per cent stake in Zara owner Inditex, the world’s largest clothing chain.

For tax and legal reasons, the family office needs to deploy all the cash within a calendar year, meaning it has to aggressively hunt for new investments.

As part of this diversification push, the company poured about $720 million into US logistic centres in 2022.

Pontegadea’s properties were valued at €15.2 billion at the end of fiscal year 2021, the latest figure available.

The first apartment building bought by Pontegadea was 19 Dutch in New York, which it acquired last year.

Updated: April 10, 2023, 5:00 AM