Wary eyes watch next step for India's Vedanta

Wed Sep 4, 2013 10:37am EDT
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* Vedanta completed overhaul of complex structure last week

* Streamlined structure cuts cost of servicing debt

* Spending to drop while free cash flow seen rising

* Weaker Indian rupee a boost as costs drop

By Clara Ferreira-Marques and Karen Rebelo

LONDON/BANGALORE, Sept 4 (Reuters) - The end of an 18-month overhaul of Vedanta's byzantine structure, which has left the resources group leaner and better able to cut debt, has raised questions over future ambitions and the temptation to use new-found flexibility for more deals.

As with Indian rivals like Hindalco, part of billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla's business empire, and major miners like Rio Tinto, Vedanta is more conservative than it once was, analysts and industry advisers say, held back by a debt burden that survived the streamlining of its web of subsidiaries and cross shareholdings.

But the sometimes unpredictable mining and energy group, almost 65-percent owned by Anil Agarwal, an ambitious scrap dealer turned metals tycoon, is also buoyed by falling spending needs, rising cash flows and the impact of a weak Indian rupee.

In the past months alone it has circled potential acquisitions including Rio's Canadian iron ore unit IOC and considered coal targets, sources familiar with the matter say.   Continued...