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What Vedanta boss plans for India

Last updated on: July 21, 2009 

What Vedanta boss plans for India

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Nevin John

The best of Anil Agarwal is yet to come. When the entrepreneur-turned-billionaire mopped up $1.5 billion (including $500 million from Vedanta) from a stagnant American financial market in just six hours, the experts and even his critics have changed their views on the Vedanta chief.

Agarwal still has more weapons in his arsenal, they say.

About 80 institutional investors have subscribed to the American Depository Shares of Sterlite Industries -- the flagship firm of the Vedanta group -- to finance Agarwal's plans in power generation.


Image: Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal.
Photographs: Rediff Archives
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What Vedanta boss plans for India

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Given India's huge, and growing, power deficit, Agarwal believes there is great scope for big businesses in the power sector.

Born in Patna to a fabricator of grills and gates, the metals czar has generally chosen to go against conventional wisdom. The listing of Vedanta Resources in London was one of the many unpredictable moves of Agarwal. In 2003, he raised $825 million from the London market.

About two years ago, his firm Sterlite raised $1.75 billion from the United States -- again, a quick move.


Image: A labourer works inside an iron factory in Lucknow. Iron-ore producer Sesa Goa, controlled by Vedanta, has begun talks with Japanese and European steel companies for building a steel plant in India.
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters
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In much the same way, Agarwal acquired bad assets across India and showed his skill in turning them around. He paid Rs 550 crore (Rs 5.50 billion) for Balco in 2006, when nobody would touch it. Later, he picked up Hindustan Zinc for Rs 600 crore (Rs 6 billion).

Given Agarwal's ability to find value in seemingly bad assets, his bid for the bankrupt US copper miner Asarco is being keenly observed by his rivals.

Having burnt his fingers while planning to restructure his group, Agarwal was especially careful this time around, and spent many days and nights working on his strategy.

Though his recent turn to spirituality has mellowed his approach, the business decisions continue to be sharp and crisp -- with the support of his executive army

Vedanta deputy executive chairman Navin Agarwal and chief executive officer M S Mehta are spearheading two separate teams for business activities in the eastern and western hemispheres.

Vedanta chief financial officer DD Jalan and Sterlite finance director Tarun Jain are the financial brains behind Agarwal.


Image: A labourer at a Vedanta-controlled iron-ore factory of Sesa Goa.
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters
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Agarwal plans to use the funds raised from the US for building about 9,000 MW power capacity by 2012.

His energy division is already generating about 2,000 MW, making him the second-largest private-sector power generating company after Tata Power.

For the power and metal business expansion, he is planning an investment of Rs 70,000 crore (Rs 700 billion).

The size of the investment is not a big issue for Agarwal. In his words, "We have enough cash to move ahead."

Vedanta's $6 billion cash reserve instils confidence in the business mogul. He has already indicated his willingness to buy the government's residual stake in Balco and Hindustan Zinc -- this will require an investment of around Rs 8,000 crore (Rs 80 billion).

Agarwal, who made his own way from a room at Kalbadevi (in Mumbai) to a $20-million mansion at Mayfair in central London, is not looking back. People close to him say more daring moves are in the offing.


Image: Villagers walk towards the main gate of Vedanta Alumina refinery in Lanjigarh near Bhubaneswar.
Photographs: Parth Sanyal/Reuters
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Source: source