Vedanta explores merging Cairn, Hindustan Zinc: Anil Agarwal

Jaipur: Mining baron Anil Agarwal is mulling merging cash-cows Cairn India and Hindustan Zinc into his flagship Vedanta Group firm to create a global natural resources giant to rival Rio Tinto or BHP Billiton.In an
vedanta explores merging cairn hindustan zinc...
PTI January 11, 2015 16:58 IST

Jaipur: Mining baron Anil Agarwal is mulling merging cash-cows Cairn India and Hindustan Zinc into his flagship Vedanta Group firm to create a global natural resources giant to rival Rio Tinto or BHP Billiton.

In an interview to PTI, Agarwal, the ebullient former scrap-metal dealer who became one of India's most prominent self-made industrialists, said consultants have been appointed to explore if it would make sense to merge the two firms into Sesa Sterlite.

"We have asked a consultant to look at it," he said.

The consultant will look at if it made sense to "keep oil and gas and energy companies separate or merge Hindustan Zinc, merge Cairn, so that we can have a company like BHP. That can be one model. It all depends on shareholders...How value can be created, how smooth. We are open for merger if the recommendation comes," he said.

Sesa Sterlite, India's biggest zinc and aluminium maker, is laden with debt, Rs 29,769 crore as on March 31, 2014 while Cairn and Hindustan Zinc (HZL) are its cash generating unit. Sesa holds controlling stake in both the firms. Cairn and HZL account for about 80 percent of Sesa's pre-tax earnings.

Insisting that no decision has been taken on merger, Agarwal said Vedanta chief executive Tom Albanese, the former Rio Tinto boss who he hired last year, is on board and whatever recommendations come, decision will depend on that.

While his firm's share buyback in Cairn met with poor response, merger of HZL will depend on a similar proposal.

"Cairn should be another mini Exxon or a better Exxon, which is an Indian energy producer, an oil and gas producer which every citizen of this country should be proud of," he said.

"We are producing at the moment 200,000 barrel of oil per day. I am looking to produce 3,00,000 bpd may be in two to three years time. Also 100,000 barrel equivalent of gas. We need to put in between USD 3 to 4 four billion to make this investment," he said.

To increase the production the company needs certain government nod and it is working on it.

Stressing that any country which does not produce more than 50 percent of its energy needs cannot eradicate its poverty, Agarwal said, "We are the ambassador, we are the showpiece. We have increased the production. We have given last year almost Rs 30,000 crore in terms of royalty and the cess which was not in their budget."

Now the company is looking at the government to keep this as a showcase and keep the policies very simple, transparent so that the company can make their investment.

"I believe it is lucrative, more than 80 percent goes to the government. It is the biggest money spinner for the government. Keep things simple, give a lot of responsibility to us and we will fulfil those responsibilities. Simplifying the process is very important for us to taking it forward," he said.

On further acquisitions he said, "We have grown our company. One of the pillar was acquisition. There is nothing at the moment in the pipeline but any thing comes up we will definitely look at. We are open to organic as well as inorganic growth."

Agarwal said he was "pained" to see people unemployed but was confident that Modi government will bring changes and investments in usher in and then "you will find shortage of manpower here. Tis will happen."

On Coal blocks allocations, Agarwal said he has always been against allotment and was in favour of auctioning.

"We are looking at participating in the coal block auction. We are evaluating. Once we do the evaluation we will decide to bid," he said.

Vedanta chief whose advise to budding entrepreneurs is to "dream big and never dream small" has said his company is looking at investing more than USD 30 billion if investment climate, which picked up after change of guards at the Centre, remains positive.

Pinning hopes on Narendra Modi-led government to bring in policy reforms for attracting global investment, he said, "It is very unfortunate that even if you go to Burma you see the MNCs are investing.

"But in India, we do not have any of large company whether Exxon, Total, BHP or Rio investing in India. I am looking forward to the Modi government with positiveness."

Vedanta Resources is a London Stock Exchange listed, globally diversified natural resources major with interests in Zinc, Lead, Silver, Copper, Iron Ore, Aluminium, Power and Oil & Gas.

It had earlier announced a consolidation step to form a mega Indian natural resources giant, Sesa Sterlite, on the likes of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

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