Vedanta seeks fresh blessing for £2.2 billion India buyout offers

Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Mining group Vedanta (LSE:VED) has asked shareholders to renew their backing for an offer of up to $3.48 billion (2.17 billion pounds) to buy Indian government minority stakes in two of its subsidiaries, as it seeks to streamline its structure.

Indian had been hoping to raise about $9 billion from the sale of state-owned assets this year, and has indicated that it does plan to sell the stakes - 29.5 percent of Hindustan Zinc (NSI:HINDZINC) and 49 percent of aluminium producer BALCO.

However, India's mining ministry wants parliamentary approval before the Hindustan Zinc sale goes ahead, and the BALCO sale may need special approval from the markets regulator.

In January last year, Vedanta, a London-listed natural resources conglomerate, offered India $2.94 billion for its stake in Hindustan Zinc, and $338 million for the shares in BALCO - part of a broader effort to slim down its byzantine structure.

Vedanta said the government had not formally responded to that offer, or to two subsequent letters.

That forced Vedanta to renew permission from shareholders to make fresh offers.

As of August last year, it had a mandate to offer, in Indian rupees, the equivalent of $3.38 billion for the Hindustan Zinc shares and $550 million for BALCO, but that mandate has expired.

Now, because the rupee has weakened, it is seeking a lower threshold - permission to offer up to $487 million for BALCO and no more than $3.48 billion for both shares combined. That could still mean higher formal offers for both or either, as the stakes do not have to be sold simultaneously.

Shareholders have been called to vote on October 30.

If Vedanta buys all the Indian government's interests, its holdings in Hindustan Zinc and BALCO will increase to 94.4 percent and 100 percent respectively, and its economic interests will increase to 55 percent and 58.3 percent.

Hindustan Zinc shares were up 2 percent on Wednesday, valuing the company at just over $9 billion, and the government's stake at almost $2.7 billion.

(Reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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