Ousted Rio boss Albanese makes comeback at Vedanta

Reuters

By Clara Ferreira-Marques

LONDON (Reuters) - Former Rio Tinto (LSE:RIO.L - News) boss Tom Albanese has taken on a senior advisory role at Indian mining group Vedanta (LSE:VED.L - News) just eight months after being ousted as chief executive of the world's No. 3 mining group.

Albanese was one of several top mining chief executives who took the blame for their companies' relentless pursuit of growth during the boom years that ended in 2011, and for acquisitions that soured and turned into billions of dollars of writedowns.

He is the only one to have returned to a full-time role at a major mining group, albeit a smaller one.

Out of the world's top six miners, only one still has the same chief executive as it did at the beginning of 2011.

Albanese, who held the top job at Rio for almost six years, is now chairman of Vedanta Resources Holdings, a subsidiary wholly owned by the oil and gas and mining group. He will act as adviser to both the operations and the main group board, providing advice on everything from operational troubles and expansion to reputational concerns and relations with investors.

It was unclear what weight Albanese would have in a company almost 65-percent controlled by its founder and chairman, Indian scrap dealer turned metals tycoon Anil Agarwal.

Yet analysts said the move could be a positive for Vedanta, which remains arguably undervalued compared to its peers despite promising operations, due to a conglomerate structure and unease among investors over corporate governance and Agarwal's dominant stake. Its forward enterprise value relative to core profit is only about a third of its peers.

"Tom Albanese brings his experience as CEO of some of the best mining operations in the world and hopefully his presence and should bring clarity to Vedanta's sometimes muddled message," analysts at Liberum said.

Vedanta shares rose nearly 3 percent, outperforming the mining sector.

Albanese left Rio in January after the group revealed a $14 billion writedown almost entirely on the value of his two most significant buys: Alcan and Mozambican coal company Riversdale.

Rio bought Alcan for $38 billion in 2007, a bruising top-of-the-market deal done when the British group was under pressure from rivals to bulk up or be bought.

Vedanta has just completed an 18-month overhaul of its byzantine structure, which has left it leaner and better able to cut debt. The streamlining, with Albanese's appointment following weeks later, has raised questions over its ambitions, particularly outside India, and the temptation to use new-found flexibility for more deals.

Vedanta Resources Holdings is 100 percent owned by Vedanta Resources Plc, the company said on Monday.

Vedanta declined to comment further and Albanese had no immediate comment.

Albanese was appointed to the board of mining royalties group Franco-Nevada (FNV.TO) last month.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)