Vedanta to invest $8 billion in 3 years, eyes 50% growth: Navin Agarwal

FILE PHOTO | Photo: Reuters
Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta on Friday said it would invest around $8 billion (about Rs 560 billion) in various business verticals over the next three years.

“The investment announcement we have made will be mainly via internal accruals as we do not intend increasing the debt going ahead. Our cash flows stood at Rs 79 billion (as on March 31) and we have reduced our gross debt by Rs 85 billion,” chairman Navin Agarwal said on the sidelines of the company’s 53th annual general meeting (AGM).

This year, Vedanta had a record production in its zinc-lead-silver and aluminium businesses, the chairman said. It is looking at growing its oil and gas business to about 400,000 barrels per day, from the current 200,000 barrels per day.

Similarly, the zinc business will grow to about 1.35 mtpa. The company is also looking at growing its international zinc business and aluminium and alumina refinery capacities, the chairman said.

Following this expansion, he believes that the firm’s business size will grow by around 50 per cent. 

“As India’s largest private sector oil producer, your company contributes 27 per cent to the domestic production and aspires to take it up to 50 per cent. Towards this, your company will be investing $3-4 billion over the next 2-3 years in various growth projects," he said.

Agarwal voiced the need to have protection for the India industry pointing at what the US and Brexit have done to protect themselves. 

“The success of companies such as yours is vital for India, at a time when a fragmenting world is adopting an ‘‘every nation for itself’’ mentality. For instance, the message from the US, “America First”, is loud and clear. Even Brexit threatens to overturn 40 years of the way trade is done in Europe. Global growth is projected at around 4 per cent for both this year and next,” he said at the AGM. 

India, on the other hand, was set to grow by over 7.5 per cent annually over the next two years, Agarwal said citing IMF’s World Economic Outlook. It will also boast of a $6-trillion economy over the next decade. Therefore, the need of the hour is to bring further changes in policies for natural resources sector, particularly the implementation of the much-awaited New Mineral Policy, and ensure a level playing ground on imports and duties, he said. 

The chairman said the company was grieved by the death of 13 protesters in a police firing at its Sterlite plant in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin in May, and had extended all possible support to the affected families.

The Tuticorin plant was closed following the deadly protests against the plant on allegations of it causing health and environmental issues.

“Your company has been instrumental in the socio-economic transformation of the region. Our copper smelter strongly complies with all environmental norms and is, amongst the best, globally," he said.

In April, the Tamil Nadu pollution control board had rejected Vedanta Sterlite's plea to renew the Consent To Operate certification, saying the company had not complied with the stipulated conditions. Following this, the government had issued a permanent closure notice to the plant.

“At this time our endeavour is to restart the copper smelter and discussion of expanding will happen afterwards," Agarwal said.

Expansion of Electrosteel

The 1.5 million tonne capacity of Electrosteel Steels will be increased by another one million tonne as part of Vedanta's $8-billion capex plan over a span of three years.

“Electrosteel Steels is currently processing at a full capacity of 1.5 mtpa, and we will soon start work to expand capacity to 2.5 mtpa at a very nominal capex of $300-$400 million,” Agarwal told reporters.

In March, Vedanta acquired assets of Electrosteel Steels, which marked its foray into the steel sector in India.

“Our acquisition of Electrosteel has lot to do with the integration of our iron ore business,” informed Agarwal.

In FY18, Vedanta's revenue rose 22 per cent to Rs 929 billion with year-on-year, EBITDA up by 19 percent to Rs 255 billion.The bottomline in the period under review was up 10 percent to Rs 82 billion. The Ebitda margin was a robust 36 per cent.

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