Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Anglo Said to Rebuff India Billionaire Agarwal’s Merger Plan

  • Agarwal said to have proposed combination with Hindustan Zinc
  • Anglo said to dismiss recent approaches; no current talks

Anglo American Plc, the London-based miner, rebuffed informal approaches in recent months from Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal, who oversees the country’s biggest mining company, according to people familiar with the matter.

Agarwal, who has majority control of Hindustan Zinc Ltd. through Vedanta Ltd., contacted Anglo to discuss potential ideas including a combination with the Indian zinc miner, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks were private. The preliminary deliberations, which included contact in July as well as brief discussions more than three months ago, were quickly dismissed after Anglo concluded a deal didn’t make sense and wasn’t feasible, they said. There are no current talks, the people said.

Anil Agarwal

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Discussions never got to a stage where the two parties explored the potential structure of a combination, including which vehicle Agarwal would use for such a transaction, the people said. Vedanta Ltd. is controlled by London-listed Vedanta Resources Plc, which has interests in zinc, copper, iron ore, power and oil and gas and a market valuation of about 1.5 billion pounds ($2 billion). Vedanta Ltd. owns about 64.9 percent of Hindustan Zinc, while the Indian government owns 29.5 percent, according to its website.

Hindustan Zinc gained as much as 3.2 percent in Mumbai trading Friday, while Vedanta Ltd. fell as much as 1.4 percent. A spokesman for Anglo American, which has a market value of about 10.9 billion pounds, declined to comment. A representative for Vedanta declined to comment.

Homegrown Giant

Agarwal, who has long sought to create a homegrown mining giant, is seeking to take advantage of a rebound in commodity prices and a potential boost in demand from India’s plans to spend billions of dollars to boost infrastructure. His company, Vedanta, is currently working on a merger with Cairn India Ltd., which would help him move a step closer to creating a natural-resources group to compete with the likes of BHP Billiton Ltd. and Vale SA.

Anglo American is also trying to engineer a turnaround after a slump in commodity prices sent its stock plummeting 75 percent last year, making any deal with Agarwal unlikely.

The producer on Thursday posted first-half results that beat analysts’ estimates and said it’s on track to meet debt reduction targets. Chief Executive Officer Mark Cutifani is selling mines and wants to exit the iron-ore and coal business to lower debt and focus on its best assets -- diamonds, platinum and copper. 

High Debt

Anglo is the best performer in the FTSE 100 index so far this year, advancing 181 percent. The company announced in April the $1.5 billion divestment of its Brazilian niobium and phosphate unit to China Molybdenum Co., after agreeing to sell interests in Australian coal mines including Foxleigh, Callide and Dartbrook.

Any deal between Anglo and Vedanta would be complicated given the high debt levels at both companies, the people said. Anglo has pledged to reduce its debt below $10 billion by the end of the year, while Vedanta Ltd. is India’s most indebted base-metals company.

Vedanta Resources hired former Anglo American Chief Executive Officer Cynthia Carroll last year as an adviser because of her knowledge of metals and M&A, Agarwal said at the time. The company is run by CEO Tom Albanese, the former head of Rio Tinto Group.

Vedanta agreed in 2010 to pay $1.34 billion to acquire some of Anglo American’s zinc mines in Africa and Ireland through Hindustan Zinc.

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