Ep. 92: Professor Narayanan Komerath on Adani, Soros and other attacks on the India story
Distinguished professor of aerospace engineering (retired) and national-security maven Narayanan Komerath shares his perspectives on the recent big news about Indian economics and politics.
Adani, Soros, and Other Attacks On India
Prof Narayanan Komerath and Prof Rajeev Srinivasan
This is a close transcript of a discussion with Prof. Rajeev Srinivasan through his Shadow Warrior Substack Podcast. Episode 92, February 20, 2023.
Narayanan Komerath: Rajeev, I read your article about the Attack on the Adani Group of Companies. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss some points with you.
I find it curious to see Indian Media experts starting out with a Disclaimer that they have not and never have had any Adani Stock. I wonder, isn’t that like in America, someone who owns no shares of Amazon, Microsoft, General Electric, Tesla, WalMart claiming Stock expertise? Sort of the criterion to pick the O.J. Simpson Jury? Remember that one?
Rajeev Srinivasan: The point of course is to make a disclaimer that one is neutral and has no biases. it is also a bit silly. i do have a few shares of adani ports, and i don’t think that blinds me to the problems in the group. nor does not owning stock in, say, apple, make me totally neutral. we all have our cognitive biases and pre-conceptions.
the truly remarkable thing is that after all the noise, nothing much seems to have happened: adani is beginning to recover, the indian stock market is regaining previous lifetime highs.
NK: When I saw this attack on the Adani Group I had this sense of déjà vu, like “Bees Saal Baad”, so many people today will have forgotten. Its the same MO that was used on November 22, 2002 in a vicious choreographed attack on the IDRF, the India Development and Relief Fund. IDRF was (and it is thriving today by the way!) a successful and trusted Indian-American charity which had proved its excellence after the Orissa Super Cyclone, Kargil War and the Bhuj Earthquake. A “Report resulting from 5 years of comprehensive research, by 7 US-based Academic Faculty Experts claimed that Orphanages, Leprosy patient shelters, and even a Medical Center affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of North America, were all just a Front for the Hindu Nationalist Government, purely to fund Genocide Against Minorities. And this was immediately parroted by all the usual suspects: OutLook magazine, The Hindu, the Times of India, and all their Marxist and Pakistani and US-based cohorts. That gem of academic depth was sponsored, if I recall correctly, by the SABRANG NGO run by Teesta Setalwad and Javed somebody. A charity, run out of a mansion at Juhu Beach, as I heard.
Did you notice the similarity too?
SR: I remember your yeoman work on IDRF, which was unfairly maligned. if i remember right, it is one of those very few NGOs that do not become ‘Lords of Poverty’ and spend half the donations they receive on themselves, first class air tickets, five-star hotels and so on. IDRF donates almost 100% of what they receive. There is an entire ecosystem in india, including the khan market gang, that lives off the crumbs of the likes of soros and his foundation.
NK: So I did the same as I did in 2002: I got a copy of the report and tried to read it. Same thing: A bunch of so-called statistics downloaded from the Adani website. Yes, Adani Group shares had run up over the past year, well ahead of the average Price to Earnings Ratio that I find comfortable, but so have Tesla or Google or Amazon. So what? As the old story goes, if I had bought Microsoft when it was 5 dollars and held on for 40 years…
They also said that Mutual Fund managers had NOT bought Adani stock, which turned out to be quite false: Index funds hold Adani stock exactly in proportion to the Index that they matched, and other Mutual funds were on average over-weighted on Adani.
The report seemed empty of any other new fact, just full of hype and rants and abuse with big words. So uncannily similar to the Sabrang Report of 2002, in sheer low class.
So I want to tell you, that’s when I went out and tripled my tiny holdings of Adani shares.
SR: Stocks being run up, talked up, “pump and dump” are normal everywhere. in fact, silicon valley companies used that as a massive force multiplier. when their stocks went high, they were able to buy out others with all stock deals. if talking up their stock is the worst thing they can say about Adani, well, that is neither illegal, nor even immoral.
i do agree that Adani P/Es were astonishingly high, but that’s normal markets work: if you are too frothy, then your balloon is punctured (no, not referring to the chinese balloons at all).
NK: In the immediate aftermath of the Report’s loud release, fewer than 2% of Adani Stock actually changed hands. Did I read that data right? Now since these are listed companies Adani insiders must own less than 75% of the shares. So at least 23%, maybe far more, is held by outsiders, who just stayed off the market. It’s the speculators with the 2% who lost money. But how was this represented? A $100B Collapse.. That’s not $100B, maybe $1B, and only those who sold, lost any money.
SR: Very important point. so who actually lost money? it’s not the big indian institutions like SBI and LIC. they bought early, in tranches, before the run-up which is relatively recent. so they are taking paper losses on paper profits.
There were relatively few retail investors as two things happened: not too many shares available, and the P/E ratios were stratospheric. So they stayed out, but people like me bought based on fundamental value. I bought on systematic investment plans; i have lost some money, but nothing extraordinary.
So who lost? i think it was the traders, the speculators. they were the ones who got burned.
as for $100b losses, google parent alphabet lost that much in a single day, but nobody was screeching about market manipulation. why?
NK: Adani was able to complete funding his FPO Public Offering but then he turned around and returned the money to those who paid it, saying they could buy lower and make even more money. Seems like he won immense goodwill, and basically pulled the mat from under the predators. What do you think?
SR: i agree it was a positive, good-faith gesture. the FPO investors included big-name players, including indian billionaires and the abu dhabi sovereign wealth fund. you don’t want to piss these guys off.
NK: But now it seems that the Report’s sponsors are getting desperate? Mr. George Soros read out a statement that seemed like it was written for him BEFORE the report came out..
I hear that Mr. George Soros is like Mother Teresa to the Pro-Democracy Movements, or the Professor Moriarty or Enrst Stavro Blofeld of the Deep State, depending on your point of view. (
He certainly has, in the words of Winston Churchill, “opened his mouth and removed all doubt”, calling for the Revival of Democracy in India. It seems clear that Soros is predicting doom for the Adani Group of companies - and by extension for the Government and nation of India.
SR: sandipan deb said on moneycontrol that soros was basically shorting india (note also that the alleged report came out just before the much-anticipated new budget). you know soros made his reputation by shorting the british pound (in 1982 or so he made $1 billion in one day). this may be his latest big market play.
i think soros and several shadowy organizations that it is not healthy to mention have a nice little thing going. he does stuff that they want to get done, but he gives them plausible deniability. they give him information and money. it works well for all concerned, except for the target.
NK: I have no idea how things will turn out. But I do believe that Adani Ports work every day, so do Adani Cement factories, Power Plants, infrastructure projects. Real work. Real assets. Real business. Not vaporware..
And I have no Proof that Adani companies have not committed any punishable crime. On the other hand I have no Proof that Mr. Soros is not a mass murderer.
SR: Adani is not enron, or madoff, or FTX. these were all big scandals right under the nose of the SEC, and they got away with a lot. and enron was smoke and mirrors, madoff was the ultimate pnnzi scheme, and FTX was utter vaporware. in comparison, adani is rock-solid: he executes projects well, and his assets actually generate hard cash.
I fear though that the general negative sentiment will make it harder for him to raise the debt financing he needs for projects, eg the strategic vizhinjam container port in my backyard.
NK: On the other hand I wonder if someone is planning to do to India what they did to so many nations and their economies. Look at Syria. Ukraine. Sri Lanka. Lebanon. Venezuela. Most of equatorial and North Africa. Millions of good decent citizens lost their entire life’s earnings, livelihoods, and even homes and had to run away as penniless refugees, wandering in hostile foreign lands with little hope.. Soros’ statement is an ominous alarm bell that this may be coming to your neighborhood too.. unless you pay attention and take action.
SR: Soros is entirely capable of doing this to india, if only he could get away with it. in a chilling interview i read, he confessed that he is only focused on the money and couldn’t care less about the carnage he leaves behind. i’d say, especially in some third world country.
NK: How do you sense the Government’s and Corporate India’s reactions?
SR: I thought both reacted with discretion and lack of panic. both know this is an attack on india inc. only the chatterati went ballistic. but i’m alarmed that the supreme court is now getting into the action. the regulators seem to be doing a fine job without all the talk of sealed cover and suchlike.
NK: What do you see as lessons to protect steady growth in India and reduce vulnerability to such organized attacks?
SR: as always, we need to be very careful about WHY something is happening, and not just WHAT. this is a regime-change attack, along with the bbc hatchet job documentary, the oxfam report, as well as the ukraine-related noise (remember duleep singh?), nuland and hillary clinton showing up in india. it’s all about 2024 elections.
NK: Getting back to the uncanny similarity to the 2002 Attack.
The same simultaneous releases of the same baseless accusations. Choreographed media releases. Talking heads parroting exactly the same stuff. Gloating political crooks. Its all the same old stuff. A classic case of “Did you know his sibling is a Thespian?”
Depends on the assumption that most Indians do not read beyond headlines, do not think, and are easily manipulated by dramatic allegations, especially against anyone who works hard and is successful.
And equally doomed to laughter when sane people pay attention. As is happening here. Oh, by the way, 20 years after the Sabrang Report, IDRF is doing very well, but more to the point, community awareness and fundraising by the Hindu diaspora are perhaps 10 to 100 times what they were in 2002. Kids care and take pride in their culture. So the predators certainly had “effect…. “
SR: On that note, let us conclude for today. Thank you for joining me today, and looking forward to having you again on this podcast very soon.