KCM has been a problem for Vedanta since 2019 when the Zambian government attempted to force its liquidation citing Vedanta’s reneging of dividend and investment promises.
Rain-laden cumuli have gathered around Anil Agarwal since Rainmakers & Potstirrers last plotted the fate of the former scrap dealer-turned-mining billionaire. Back in 2019, Agarwal was a 19% shareholder in Anglo American - since ‘sold’ - and was talking volubly about cooperation with Anglo in southern Africa. Since then, Agarwal barely has time for lofty strategies because things have gone into reverse at head office. Agarwal’s abiding problem has been debt. Failure of a $2bn delisting of Vedanta Limited in 2020 sent parent company, Vedanta Resources, to restructure dollar bonds of which $1.17bn is due in 2021. Had the delisting taken place, Vedanta Resources would have had access to Vedanta Limited cash.
An offer to buy 10% of Vedanta Limited has since been launched. Prior to this, in March 2020, Vedanta Resources CEO, Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan, surprisingly quit the company, followed two months later by Deshnee Naidoo, CEO of Vedanta Zinc International (VZI) who also had oversight of the firm’s Zambian operations, its 80% Konkola Copper Mines (KCM). KCM has been a problem for Vedanta since 2019 when the Zambian government attempted to force its liquidation citing Vedanta’s reneging of dividend and investment promises. In November, Zambia’s Court of Appeal forced the sides into arbitration - a positive development for Agarwal, yet the provisional liquidator, who has not been removed from proceedings, says he will sell the assets anyway.
At least VZI’s Gamsberg was reopened in January following a geotechnical event that saw the mine shut for over a month. Agarwal installed himself on the board of Black Mountain Mining, the VZI subsidiary that looks after Gamsberg, possibly sensing its proposed expansion to 600,000 tons a year of zinc needs his political clout, especially if certain infrastructural developments are to take place.
Born in 1956, 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 until listing it on the London Stock Exchange in 2003 where it resided until delisting in October. Agarwal once told the Guardian: “I have to project myself. I have to have a Bentley, the best of chauffeurs, and butlers.”
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