‘Govt going slow on residual stake sale in HZL, Balco’

Debabrata Das Richa Mishra New Delhi | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on August 21, 2016

bl21_Tom albanese

Group also using zinc biz to lure Cairn India shareholders into approving Vedanta merger

Increasing stake in Hindustan Zinc and Balco still remains a distant dream for Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Group, even as the government has hinted on its intent for promoting strategic disinvestments.

“At this stage, I don’t see the government moving quickly on the disinvestment of Hindustan Zinc and Balso, just based on the official pronouncements that they have made.

“Certainly, that (disinvestment) is at their (government) pleasure entirely,” Tom Albanese, Chief Executive Officer, Vedanta Resources Plc, told BusinessLine.

It was in the first tenure of the NDA Government in the early 2000s that Vedanta Group had acquired 51 per cent stake in Balco in 2001 and 64.9 per stake in HZL in 2002-03.

The Group has been seeking to acquire the residual stake for over five years now as it would give Vedanta unhindered access to over ₹35,000 crore of assets, including current investments in mutual funds and cash and bank balances.

“If they (government) were to consider disinvesting their interest, we would certainly look forward to working with the government on Balco and Hindustan Zinc in a way which actually meets their own process requirements.

Obviously, there would need to be some kind of competitive and transparent process,” said Albanese.

Besides, the access to the capital in Hindustan Zinc and Balco’s balance-sheets, the group is also using the zinc business to lure Cairn India shareholders into approving the merger with Vedanta Ltd.

“Cairn India’s assets are on a decline curve right now…We (Vedanta Ltd) have right now the only metal or commodity that everyone is bullish about which is zinc…If you are a Cairn shareholder, by approving the merger you get a longer life asset base in total…It has access to zinc, which it did not have before,” said Albanese.

Major push

It was in 2012 that the Vedanta group made a major push for acquiring the residual stake in Hindustan Zinc and Balco.

Prior to the merger of the erstwhile Sesa Goa Ltd and Sterlite Industries Ltd which ultimately formed Vedanta Ltd, the group in January 2012 made an offer of $2.938 billion or ₹15,493 crore for Hindustan Zinc and $338 million or ₹1,782 crore for Balco.

This offer was later increased to $3.378 billion or ₹18,606.10 crore for Hindustan Zinc and $550 million or ₹3,028.78 crore for Balco in August 2012.

The offer was valid for a year.

However, the then UPA Government referred the matter to an Inter Ministerial Group which failed to come to a decision.

After the Narendra Modi-led NDA Government took charge in May 2014 hopes were revived that the residual stake sale would happen soon.

However, in August 2014, the Supreme Court began hearing a petition by the National Confederation of Officers Association of Central Public Sector Enterprises which sought a stay on the residual stake sale.

In January 2016, the Supreme Court put a stay order on the residual stake sale in Hindustan Zinc and Balco.

Published on August 21, 2016

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