The founder of Fort Lauderdale-based GQG Partners is known for making large investments in old-school industries like oil and tobacco. His latest bet—on the ports-to-power conglomerate Adani Group—might be his most daring yet.
On Thursday, Indian billionaire Gautam Adani finally got some good news. After weeks of cratering share prices in the publicly traded firms in his Adani Group conglomerate—largely caused by the release of U.S. short-seller Hindenburg Research’s scathing report on January 24—the group announced a $1.9 billion investment in four of its public companies. The deal led to a stock rally that boosted Gautam Adani’s net worth by $3.8 billion to $42.7 billion on Friday, yet still a long way from his peak of $158 billion last September.
The man behind that deal is Rajiv Jain, the founder, chairman and chief investment officer of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based asset management firm GQG Partners. Like Adani, he’s also a billionaire. According to GQG’s filings on the Australian Stock Exchange, where it went public in October 2021, Jain owns 69% of the company—a stake worth roughly $2 billion. A spokesperson for GQG did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jain founded GQG in 2016 and has grown it to $92 billion in assets under management, with several funds that hold large positions in oil producers ExxonMobil and Petrobras, as well as tobacco giants Philip Morris and British American Tobacco. If it weren’t for the recent market rout in Adani Group companies, his bet on a ports-to-power conglomerate wouldn’t seem out of place among the other firms that GQG typically invests in.
GQG purchased stakes in four Adani companies: Adani Ports, Adani Green Energy, Adani Transmission and Adani Enterprises, according to a statement from Adani Group. All four stocks rallied on Friday after the deal was announced, with the flagship Adani Enterprises rising 17%, a stark contrast from weeks of stock price declines driven by the Hindenburg report. Jain’s firm invested in the Adani companies on behalf of various pension funds and institutional clients, including nearly $480 million through its Goldman Sachs GQG Partners International Opportunities Fund, a $25 billion (assets under management) fund that GQG manages on behalf of Goldman Sachs’ asset management arm
“I am excited to have initiated positions in the Adani companies. Adani companies own and operate some of the largest and most important infrastructure assets throughout India and around the world,” Jain said in a statement announcing the deal. “Gautam Adani is widely regarded as among the best entrepreneurs of his generation.”
On Wednesday, India’s supreme court asked the country’s stock market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), to open an investigation into the Adani Group to look into allegations of stock manipulation and failures to disclose transactions with related parties. Forbes previously reported on several transactions involving offshore funds in Singapore and Cyprus with ties to Vinod Adani, Gautam’s elder brother, that appear designed to benefit the Adani Group and lend further credence to Hindenburg’s allegations of hidden leverage and accounting irregularities within the Adani Group.
The Adani Group has denied all wrongdoing. “The Adani Group welcomes the order of the honorable Supreme Court,” Gautam Adani said in a tweet on Thursday. “It will bring finality in a time bound manner. Truth will prevail.”
Born in India, Jain studied accounting at the University of Ajmer in the Indian state of Rajasthan, getting a master’s degree in the same field before leaving to pursue an M.B.A. in finance and international business at the University of Miami. He then worked as an international equity analyst at Swiss Bank Corporation before leaving to join Swiss asset manager Vontobel in November 1994, as a co-portfolio manager of emerging markets and international equities. Several promotions later, he became Vontobel’s chief investment officer in 2002 and was later tapped as co-CEO in 2014. During his time at Vontobel, he helped grow the firm’s assets under management from less than $400 million to nearly $50 billion.
Two years later, he left Vontobel to start GQG Partners in Florida. At GQG, he’s become known for focusing on companies’ earnings rather than following the hottest trends in the market—a fact borne out by his funds’ large positions in energy, mining, tobacco, consumer goods, healthcare and banking. (The only tech company Forbes identified in GQG’s fund disclosures was Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC.)
“We believe earnings drive stock prices, the market offers very limited opportunities to create an information advantage, and investors are disproportionately focused on the short term,” Jain said in a July 2022 interview with Toronto-based Bridgehouse Asset Managers. “Our core valuation philosophy creates an investment style that we describe as buying high-quality, sustainable businesses at reasonable prices.”
With GQG’s $1.9 billion investment, Jain has wagered that despite Hindenburg’s allegations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud—which the Adani Group has denied—the Adani firms are a good bet, at a far lower price than their peak last year. “We believe that the long-term growth prospects for [the Adani] companies are substantial,” Jain added in the deal announcement.
Besides its bet on the Adani Group, GQG also invests in several other Indian companies: 22% of its $9.9 billion emerging markets equity fund is invested in Indian companies. Those include Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance conglomerate and the State Bank of India, as well as housing finance provider Housing Development Finance Corp, ICICI Bank and Kolkata-based conglomerate ITC. And at least five GQG funds hold positions in French energy major TotalEnergies, which owns a 37.4% stake in Adani Total Gas and a 20% stake in Adani Green Energy—which, as Forbes previously reported, was acquired from Mauritius-based firms controlled by Vinod Adani for $2 billion in 2021. (The price rally spurred by GQG’s investment in the Adani companies lifted Vinod’s estimated net worth by 12% to roughly $9 billion.)
Outside of his investments, Jain has also backed Democrats in the U.S. Forbes found that Jain contributed $81,600 to Democratic presidential and congressional candidates between 2012 and 2016, according to Federal Election Commission records. In the 2016 primaries, Jain decided to hedge his bets: he donated $2,700 to Hillary Clinton and $1,000 to Bernie Sanders.
Additional reporting by John Hyatt.
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