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August 19, 2010

Is Vedanta's Cairn acquisition a good one?

Gautam Chhabria has an interesting comment in reply to Menaka Doshi's post on whether Vendata's acquisition of Cairn India would work given that it does not fit Vendata's "core competence".
My answer, what Mr. Agarwal is doing is perfectly right. If he were to have stuck to what consultants and management gurus, currently prescribe, i.e. core competence, then a scrap trader would have remained just at that i.e. scrap trading. He wouldn’t have taken the leap of faith to get into manufacturing cables, to have gotten into making jelly filled telephone cables given the huge demand from erstwhile DOT for laying landlines across the country in the 80’s. He wouldn’t have then leaped into fibre optics after betting that data transmission in the age of internet would explode.

...When the Indian government offered a once in a lifetime opportunity by privatizing national assets like BALCO and Hind Zinc at bargain basement prices, sticking to core competencies would have meant foregoing those opportunities. After all BALCO which he bagged at 550 crores, had a 250 MW captive power plant which alone would cost 1000 cr to construct then. A group which should have been far more aggressive namely the Aditya Birla Group, bid a measly 250 cr for the same company. Again detractors said that Mr. Agarwal’s bid being more than 100% higher than the Birlas, meant sure doom.

What did he do to make his detractors shut up, well another acquisition!! Hindustan Zinc which was acquired by him for 900 cr, has an annual profit these days of 4000 odd crores. His appetite for acquisitions never waned, its just the Indian government who could not digest all the brickbats from these privatizations. Or else Mr. Agarwal had firmed up his mind to acquire Hindustan Copper, National Fertilizers, Shipping Corporation of India, IFCI and what ever else the govt. was ready to sell.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports. Email the author at