Volcan Investments Ltd
THE purchase of shares in Anglo American – equal to about a fifth of the firm – by Anil Agarwal’s family trust, Volcan Investments, is a questionable investment strategy. But no one believes that was the real reason the wily Agarwal has taken a massive punt on Anglo, as insisted by his banker JP Morgan, when two swoops on the UK-listed firm made news in March and September. But the exact motive is a mystery. At first, it was suggested Agarwal was attempting to flush out rival bidders for Anglo, but none emerged. More likely, then, he’s either attempting to influence the formation of joint ventures between Indian companies and Anglo – as he has stated he would like to do – or position himself for further restructuring of the 100-year old group. Agarwal has lauded Anglo’s South African exposure as well as the country’s development. We’ll have to wait and see. More urgently, Agarwal’s Vedanta Resources, of which he is chairman, begins first production at its Gamsberg zinc facilities in South Africa this year. Up to $400m is being invested ($130m to date) to build zinc capacity of 400,000 tonnes/year. Vedanta is also working on process improvements to build Zambian copper/cobalt production where the company faces a legal suit by 2,000 villagers, claiming pollution from its Nchanga Copper Company ruined their livelihoods. Agarwal also needs to decide who will lead Vedanta following the departure of Tom Albanese. Kuldip Kaura is currently interim CEO.
LIFE OF ANIL
Born in 1956, Indian ‘bollygarch’ Agarwal left school at 15 to work in the scrap metal trade until founding Vedanta forerunner Sterlite in 1976. It diversified into cable manufacturing ten years later. Agarwal now sits atop a £2.3bn company, having debuted in London in 2003 for £1bn.
He once told The Guardian: “I have to project myself. I have to have a Bentley, the best of chauffeurs and butlers.” He is married with two children.