Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath, Priyanka Gulati & Smriti Arora
Confessions from the Adani Group
The context: Back in January, Hindenburg Research released an explosive report alleging that the Adani Group had funnelled money into its companies—via 38 Mauritius-based shell entities. And that many of these dummy entities were controlled by bada bhai Vinod Adani. This was part of a big scam to make the Adani companies look financially healthy—and manipulate their stock price (we explained this in detail here).
The denial: At the time, the Adani Group issued an outraged 413-page rebuttal:
“Vinod Adani does not hold any managerial position in any Adani-listed entities or their subsidiaries and has no role in their day-to-day affairs. We are not in a position to comment… on the business dealings and transactions of Mr. Vinod Adani.” It insisted that it had always maintained an “arm’s length” relationship with the elder brother.
The confession: The Adani Group now has admitted that “Vinod Adani is part of the ‘promoter group’ of various listed entities within the Adani group.” Two companies recently acquired by the group—ACC and Ambuja Cements Ltd—are, in fact, controlled by Vinod. But the group claims this fact has already been disclosed in past filings. (The Telegraph)
A Wall Street ‘bailout’ for First Republic
After the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, other mid-sized banks were in great jeopardy. Signature went down within days and First Republic was teetering on the edge of catastrophe. It has now been rescued—not by the government—but by 11 big US banks—who have rushed to ensure it has enough cash in its coffers:
Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo will deposit $5 billion each in First Republic. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are putting up $2.5 billion apiece, while BNY-Mellon, PNC Bank, State Street, Truist, and US Bank will each chip in $1 billion.
Not quite as lucky: Virgin Orbit—the satellite launch company owned by Richard Branson. Its attempt to stage the first-ever satellite launch from British soil in January failed miserably—and the company lost all its nine satellites. The company has now paused its operations and sent its employees on unpaid leave. (BBC News)
Staging a comeback: Playboy magazine—which is relaunching itself in a digital format. Rather than offering editorial content, this version will be a creator platform a la OnlyFans:
In the new iteration, select creator features will be available for free while behind-the-scenes and full photo shoots will be available only to subscribers of each creator on Playboy.com.
The new avatar has no real connection to its magazine roots–but, hey, the cover of the “first issue” still has those iconic bunny ears. (Variety)
TikTok ban in the US?
Donald Trump did his best to shut down the country’s most popular social media app. Now, Joe Biden is taking his best shot. The administration has told ByteDance—its Chinese owners—to sell their stake in the company—or face a ban. The demand was issued by a little-known federal agency called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius—which assesses national security risks of foreign investments.
The primary reason for concern: Beijing requires all Chinese companies to share data with the government—on demand. This is why TikTok has already been banned on government phones in the US—and the UK is expected to follow suit. For its part, the company has proposed the following:
TikTok says its $1.5 billion security plan would essentially wall off its U.S. operations, with all data being stored in the U.S. The plan also calls for giving a U.S. company, Oracle Corp., the ability to access the company’s algorithmic code and flag issues for government inspectors.
The Wall Street Journal (splainer gift link) has this exclusive.
Also being shut down: Rahul Gandhi. The BJP wants him to be suspended from the Lok Sabha for making “anti-India” remarks on his UK tour. The party has asked the Speaker to set up a special committee to investigate his conduct—which will be controlled by the BJP since it has a majority. A previous such committee led to the expulsion of ten MPs. (Indian Express)
Marvel is suing Google and Reddit
The script of ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ was revealed by a Reddit user before its release. While Reddit took down at least one post, other fans accessed the leaked script which was stored on a Google Doc. Disney has served both companies with subpoenas—demanding they turn over user data:
Google must share information with Marvel’s lawyers about the online document that contained the leaked script. The details include the name of the owner or owners of the document and whoever edited it, along with their addresses and phone numbers. Reddit is being ordered under a subpoena to submit information about any user who posted dialogue from the leaked script… Marvel specifically demanded information about a Reddit user who claims to post spoilers about Marvel and Spider-Man films.
As for Disney+ Hotstar: According to Mint, the streaming service did not renew its licence for HBO content because it didn’t want to shell out $10 million a year. The reason:
There were less than 480,000 subscribers watching HBO content on Disney+Hotstar. Even at the same price, Disney+Hotstar would have to pay Rs 80 crore (800 million) per year for the content, which was watched by a small audience. And even if they all pay for the top package, which is ₹1,499 annually, the revenue is less than the asking price.
Mint has this behind-the-scenes exclusive.
Smog ruins sex lives… of insects
A new study revealed that air pollution is making it harder for fruit flies to mate. The reason: the type of ozone emitted from vehicle tailpipes and factories neutralises pheromones released by male flies—which makes them sexy to the lady flies: “When we expose male flies to ozone, then suddenly it took them much longer to convince the female to mate.” Worse, this loss of pheromones also led to great gender confusion—since they help male flies identify each other. As a result, males mistakenly attempt to mate with one another—which isn’t exactly conducive to reproduction. The Guardian and France 24 have more details.
In other unhappy news for animals: Scientists are raising the alarm over plans for the world’s first octopus farm—which plans to raise a million octopuses to supply "premium international markets" including the US, South Korea and Japan. Octopuses are notoriously difficult to raise in captivity since they are solitary animals that live in the dark. So the company came up with this genius idea: “Nueva Pescanova's plans reveal that the octopuses, which are solitary animals used to the dark, would be kept in tanks with other octopuses, at times under constant light.” TBH, everything about this project makes us feel nauseous. BBC News has more details.
In happy news for French bulldogs: They have dethroned the Labrador Retriever as America’s most popular dog breed. The mighty Lab has been toppled after a whopping 31 years. Ofc, the sky-rocketing popularity of the breed—with notorious genetic issues—is not exactly great news. Vox explains why. (CBS News)
Many things to see
Yup, it’s a long list today.
One: Let’s start with the hilarious news that Newark, New Jersey, officials were conned into becoming the sister city of Kailasa. What’s that, you ask? That’s the totally fictional ‘Hindu nation’ established by the notorious conman Swami Nithyananda. However, the good folks in Newark not only signed an agreement, but also held a grand ceremony, where Mayor Ras Baraka declared: “I pray that our relationship helps us to understand cultural, social and political development and improves the lives of everybody in both places.” You can see the Kailasa delegate posing with the mayor below. That outfit didn’t raise a red flag? Really? You can enjoy an entire CBS news report on this PR disaster here.
Two: A photo of Spicejet pilots celebrating Holi in the cockpit went viral. They have been grounded—sadly, the airline has not. Aviation experts on Twitter were most outraged at the coffee balancing precariously next to electronic controls. If a cuppa can fry your laptop, imagine what it can do to that plane! (Hindustan Times)