From metal scrap seller to “Metal King”, Anil Agarwal, Executive Chairman of the London stock market-listed Vedanta Resources, has come a long way. But he also has a knack of courting controversies.Agarwal is currently in the news for his $2.6 billion (Rs 11,180 crore) bid for US-based mining company Asarco. It’s another test case for this feisty NRI tycoon as his takeover attempt, which was thought to be a done deal, has got muddled following a $4.1-billion counter-bid from Grupo Mexico, the erstwhile parent company of Asarco.
This isn’t the first time that Agarwal has got into a scrap. In 2001, the Securities and Exchange Board of India prohibited Sterlite Industries, his erstwhile flagship, now listed on NYSE, from accessing the capital market for two years for allegedly manipulating its stock price. Then, a workers’ protest almost stymied his takeover of Bharat Aluminium Co, which he bought from the government.
That said, such controversies have never deterred him from giving shape to his big ambitions. Agarwal has continued to acquire companies in India, Africa and Australia. If the Asarco acquisition goes through, he will have a presence in four continents. Some of his prominent acquisitions are Balco, Hindustan Zinc and Sesa Goa. Moreover, he is also seen as a turnaround man.
After basic metals, Agarwal is eyeing the basic raw materials sector, which is key to the metals industry, and which, for him, will mark a backward integration. Can he succeed here? Given his track record, not many will be willing to bet that he won’t.
—Virendra Kumar Verma