Indian billionaire Agarwal to be Anglo American’s top shareholder

Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal, the founder and chairman of Vedanta Resources, could become Anglo American’s biggest shareholder. (Image courtesy of Fly VIP.)

Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal is planning to increase his investment in Anglo American (LON:AAL) by as much as 1.5 billion pounds ($2 billion), which would make him the biggest shareholder in the diversified miner.

The acquisition of further shares will be done through Volcan Investments Ltd., the family trust of Agarwal, who is the founder and chairman of Vedanta (LON:VED), India’s largest mining company.

The move could give Agarwal a commanding voice at Anglo American, the world’s fifth-largest miner by market value, which the businessman described earlier this year as “a great company with excellent assets and a strong board and management team who are executing a focused strategy.”

Volcan, Agarwal’s family trust, said it would acquire an additional £1.25bn to £1.5bn worth of Anglo shares, which would make the Indian tycoon the miner’s biggest shareholder.

The investment comes on top of the 12.43% stake he’s built since March, when Volcan boosted its holding in Anglo American.

While some interpret today’s announcement as the beginning of an Anglo takeover, Agarwal has repeatedly said he doesn’t intend to take control of the company. A dubious statement, as the Indian tycoon already approached the London-listed miner last year with an offer to merge with Hindustan Zinc, a mining firm he controls through Vedanta.

But Anglo stopped the approach in its tracks saying a deal didn’t make sense and wasn’t feasible.

The planned investment is a major vote of confidence in Anglo American, which has staged an impressive turnaround since commodity prices began climbing last year. In February, the firm logged a profit of $1.6 billion for 2016, its first annual revenue in five years.

“We are encouraged by the performance of Anglo American since our original investment earlier this year,” Agarwal said in the statement. “The company has made good progress in its operational and financial performance and remains an attractive investment for our family trust,” he added.

In a separate statement, Vedanta confirmed the proposed investment, noting it has nothing to do with the planned acquisition of shares, which is “being made by Volcan alone” with the assistance of JPMorgan.

Anglo American appointed in June a new chairman, Stuart Chambers, who will take over Sir John Parker in November. Chambers, 61 and former chairman of UK chip designer Arm, is known for his active participation in the sale of several UK companies, including the one where he was chairman until 2016, as he oversaw the sale of Arm to Japan’s Softbank.