Vedanta Resources' India Operations Overlooked That It Takes Two to Tango

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One cannot miss the irony of the fact behind the headline. An international diversified metals and mining company built from the ground up by an Indian, finding it tough to do business in India.

The Indian story of Vedanta Resources, whose resources and assets are spread across India, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Australia, Liberia and Ireland, is not unfolding the way it was perhaps scripted in the minds of its chairman, Anil Agarwal.

Agarwal’s story is a typical rags-to-riches tale. From a scrap dealer in a dusty town in Northern India over three decades ago, Agarwal today heads a nearly US $11 billion (in revenue) group, headquartered in London, and part of the FTSE 100 index – the only Indian company to enjoy that distinction today.

Vedanta Group companies are into every kind of geological extraction and metal business – coal, gas, bauxite, aluminum, oil, zinc, copper, and iron ore.

Pretty good show for a scrap metal dealer.

But Agarwal may be a tad disappointed with the way his company’s India story has been unfolding, and occasionally interviews and statements in the Indian press reflect that sometimes.

Vedanta’s Indian saga has been the subject matter of recent reports and analysis in the Indian press. Many have focused on the problems the company faces in its forward movement.

A report in The Economic Times pegged regulation as the biggest hurdle before the Vedanta Group – the rules and laws that govern mining and related issues such as the environment in India. This, said the report, had even brought down the stocks of two main listed entities of the Group, Sterlite Industries and Sesa Goa, in the past.

Again, regulation is an issue that Agarwal has an opinion or two about. He just wants to get on with it, but the Government of India and its regulatory authorities seem to be taking their own sweet time. Occasionally, it is also a case of one step forward and two back.

The Aluminum Operation

Take the case of the alumina refinery run by the Vedanta Aluminum Ltd (VAL) in the chronic drought-prone district of Kalahandi in the eastern state of Odisha.

More on Vedanta’s aluminum adventures coming up in Part Two.

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