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Moody’s Investors Service lowered Vedanta Resources’ credit rating further into junk territory earlier this month.
Moody’s Investors Service lowered Vedanta Resources’ credit rating further into junk territory earlier this month.

Vedanta to raise $8 bn for BPCL bid

  • Mining conglomerate in talks with banks to tie up funds

Billionaire Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta group plans to raise as much as $8 billion through a mix of debt and equity to secure funds for the acquisition of state-run Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL), two people directly aware of the talks with investors and banks said.

London-based Vedanta Resources Plc has initiated talks with a clutch of banks to tie up the funds, the people said, seeking anonymity as the discussions are private.

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“The talks are currently on to appoint an anchor bank for the purpose and discussions with JP Morgan are at an advanced stage," said one of the two people.

Last month, the mining conglomerate showed preliminary interest in buying the government’s 53% stake in BPCL. The sale, part of India’s asset-sale programme, is expected to fetch the government about 45,000 crore and is aimed at helping it make up for the revenue loss caused by covid-related disruptions and secure funding for additional spending to boost the economy.

Both Vedanta and JP Morgan declined to comment.

Vedanta group’s interest in India’s second largest fuel retailer stems from the synergies with its existing oil and gas business (formerly Cairn India), which accounts for around a quarter of India’s annual crude oil output.

“Vedanta’s EoI (expression of interest) for BPCL is to evaluate potential synergies with our existing oil and gas business. The EoI is at a preliminary stage and exploratory in nature," the company had said.

Analysts, however, questioned the group’s ability to raise the entire funding on its own, given its precarious finances. While BPCL’s dividend payments could cover the cost of debt of any acquisition, “the question we have is how would Vedanta Ltd (an Indian unit of Vedanta Resources) secure funding, given the worries on leverage at Vedanta and the parent," JP Morgan said in a report in November.

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Buying a 75% stake in BPCL (53% from government and 22% through an open offer) would cost Vedanta 64,200-97,600 crore depending on the price ( 395 to 600 per share), the report added.

“Vedanta is aware of the challenges it faces in raising funds and is, therefore, keen to on-board equity partner(s) to jointly acquire BPCL," said the second person cited above. “It has also initiated discussions with several global private equity funds to jointly bid," the second person added. The names of the PE funds could not be ascertained immediately.

Vedanta group faces an uphill task in meeting its debt obligation maturing in the coming quarters, and investors have raised concerns about the group’s ability to successfully repay bondholders.

Bloomberg reported on 10 December that Vedanta Resources secured much-needed funds by selling $1 billion of notes at one of the highest yields for a dollar bond in Asia this year. It priced the January 2024 bond on Wednesday at a yield of 13.875%. Vedanta Resources plans to use the money to fund a buyback offer for $670 million of notes maturing in June 2021.

Strains have been increasing at the company after its attempt to delist Indian unit Vedanta Ltd failed in October. The planned delisting would have given the parent easier access to cash there.

Moody’s Investors Service lowered Vedanta Resources’ credit rating further into junk territory earlier this month, the Bloomberg report said.

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