M&A Bankers See India Deals Surpassing Record 2010

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and chief executive officer of Bharti Enterprises Ltd Close

Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and chief executive officer of Bharti Enterprises Ltd

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Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and chief executive officer of Bharti Enterprises Ltd

Indian mergers and acquisitions in 2011 may surpass this year’s record $71 billion of deals, led by oil and gas, metals and mining companies, according to M&A bankers including Topsy Mathew of Standard Chartered Plc.

Billionaire Sunil Mittal’s $10.7 billion acquisition of mobile-phone operators in Africa led an almost four-fold increase in takeovers this year as deals surpassed 2007’s $69 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Large Indian corporates are going through a growth phase: they think there is a lot of opportunity, they think they have access to capital,” 35-year-old Mathew, managing director for M&A for India, said in an interview Dec. 27. The London-based bank climbed 13 places to No. 2 among Indian takeover advisers this year, its highest ranking, Bloomberg data show. “They are capitalizing on the positive sentiment to undertake long-term strategic transactions,” he said.

Companies in Asia-Pacific including India and China are expected to be the most acquisitive buyers in 2011 as attractive valuations and domestic competition drive deals globally, according to Bloomberg’s M&A Global Outlook survey. Overseas companies may target Indian pharmaceutical and consumer firms, and local enterprises will seek natural resources, said Bank of America Corp. (BAC), ranked No. 3.

‘Highly Active’

“Outbound deals would continue to be highly active given that international companies’ valuations are still relatively depressed, and Indian companies have access to debt and equity capital,” Saurabh Agrawal, the 41-year-old head of India investment banking at Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America, wrote in an e-mailed response to questions on Dec. 14. “Inbound and local deals will also take place.”

Cross-border deals rose to a record $59.2 billion in India this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, after Mittal’s New Delhi-Bharti Airtel Ltd. (BHARTI) in March agreed to buy the African assets of Zain for $10.7 billion. Outbound M&A accounted for 74 percent of that volume.

The acquisition spree in India, China and Brazil contrasts with a slowdown in global deals. Mergers worldwide are down 46 percent from 2007’s record, according to Bloomberg data. In the U.S., the world’s largest market, volumes are 51 percent lower, and levels in Europe are down by 59 percent.

Pending Deals

Pending deals in India including the sale of a controlling stake in Mumbai-based software maker Patni Computer Systems Ltd. and Honda Motor Co. (7267)’s holding in New Delhi-based Hero Honda Motors Ltd. Buyout firms including Carlyle Group are bidding to acquire those shares, people familiar with the matter have said.

A group of state-run companies hired Citigroup Inc. last week to prepare a bid for Sydney-based Riversdale Mining Ltd., countering a A$3.9 billion ($3.9 billion) offer from London-based Rio Tinto Group.

“Resources will be a big focus, with Indian companies looking at consolidating their position in oil and gas, metals and mining,” said Standard Chartered’s Mathew. “There will be a particular focus on Indian public sector companies looking at oil assets internationally as well as Indian companies looking to acquire iron ore and coal assets for their steel and power operations.”

Natural resources and telecommunications will continue to drive M&A, said Frank Hancock, managing director of corporate finance for Barclays Capital in Mumbai. Telecom takeovers accounted for 26 percent of deals in India this year, while energy and mining companies accounted for another 30 percent.

Takeover Rules

A proposed overhaul of Indian M&A rules may also stoke interest in domestic targets, Hancock, 50, said in an e-mail Dec. 14. London-based Barclays is ranked No. 4 on takeovers in India, its highest ever position.

“While cross-border will still make up 70 percent of the total pie, the balance between inbound and outbound will increasingly become more even,” said Hancock. The new rules “are going to make it easier for a listed company to be taken over and thereafter delisted.”

A panel formed by India’s capital markets regulator in July recommended increasing the threshold shareholding level that would trigger mandatory open offers to 25 percent from 15 percent. Shareholders who already own more than 25 percent would also be allowed to offer to buy an additional 10 percent, half the existing requirement.

Indian Targets

Easing limits on foreign direct investment would also bolster overseas companies’ appetite for Indian takeover targets, Sameer Nath, managing director and head of M&A at Citigroup (C)’s local unit, said in an e-mailed response to questions Dec. 20. New York-based Citigroup is No. 6 among takeover advisers in India this year.

“Liberalizing the FDI framework in a sensible way could be a positive for all parties,” Nath said. Overseas companies may look to India for its telecom, health-care and consumer industries, while local companies will look overseas for oil and gas, metals, mining and technology assets, he said.

Financing remains a major prerequisite for large takeovers in the nation, bankers including Nath said. Outbound deals are particularly dependent on funding, Agrawal wrote.

A decline in borrowing costs has allowed Indian companies to replace debt with cheaper financing, putting them in position now to be more aggressive on acquisitions, said Ganeshan Murugaiyan, managing director and head of investment banking at UBS AG (UBSN)’s local unit. The Swiss bank was ranked No. 7 this year in advising on takeovers in India.

“The benign debt market environment, especially from the second half of 2010, has helped several corporates to refinance the debt or raise long-term funds at attractive costs,” Murugaiyan, 37, wrote on Dec. 14. “With this back-drop, we expect Indian corporates to be more acquisitive next year.”

To contact the reporter on this story: George Smith Alexander in Mumbai galexander11@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeffrey St.Onge jstonge@bloomberg.net

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