Indian company seals deal with planet's "richest woman"Published by MAC on 2011-09-26
Source: Bloomberg, The Hindu, Mining.com
Australia's richest woman is bidding fair to become the wealthiest person on the planet.
Ms Gina Rinehart has just signed a US1.3 billion deal with an Indian infrastructure company, by which her Hancock iron and coal conglomerate could "earn" US$10 billion a year within the next 3-4 years.
Meanwhile, another of India's most powerful industrial companies, Adani, has been accused of effectively bribing indigenous villagers to part with their lands by offering them loans, repayable when their territory is turned over to coal mining.
This has re-ignited debate in India over community rights, supposedly guaranteed under the Forest Rights Act of 2006; and the nature of the peoples' "consent" to mining projects, as opposed to mere consultation over them.
For an earlier prediction of Gina Rinehart's rise to the position of "world's richest person", see: http://moneytometal.org/index.php/Gina_Rinehart
More details on Adani Enterprises are to be found at: http://moneytometal.org/index.php/Adani_Enterprises
India coal deal takes Rinehart a step closer to $100 billion personal fortune
By Frik Els
18 September 2011
India infrastructure giant GVK on Saturday said it would pay $1.3 billion for Australia's Hancock Prospecting coal, rail and port projects and spend a further $10 billion developing them as it lines up energy supplies for upcoming power plants. Hancock's owner and richest woman in the world, Georgina Hope Rinehart will join GVK Power's board and retain a 21% stake in the mines.
Rinehart, 57, is predicted to become the world's richest person as the coal projects and Hancock's massive 100%-owned iron ore mines start producing by 2014 and earn her annual profits of as much as $10 billion. The so-called queen of iron ore who inherited a debt-ridden mining company from her father 20 years ago had already doubled her wealth from 2010 before Saturday's deal.
NDTV profits reports "The cost of acquisition is around $1.26 billion, payable in a phased manner to the Hancock Group with $500 million payable at closing," GVK Power & Infrastructure said in a regulatory filing.
AFP reports last year, Adani Enterprises spent $2.7 billion to pick up coal assets belonging to Australia's Linc Energy. Tata Power, Reliance Power, Essar and other companies have bought coal mines from Indonesia to South Africa and Mozambique, spending a collective total of around $8 billion in the last four years, according to figures compiled by Indian magazine Business World.
MINING.com reported in June Rinehart, 57, who inherited a debt-ridden mining company 20 years ago, is predicted to become the world's richest person. She is already the richest Australian after her wealth more than doubled to $10.3bn this year. Five years ago her personal fortune was estimated at $1.8 billion.
That still places her far behind Carlos Slim, Mexico's cellphone magnate worth some $73bn, but according to SmartCompany if Rinehart was a listed company and valued using the same 11-times price-to-earnings ratio as her partner, Rio Tinto, she would be worth $30 billion, putting her in the top ten of the Forbes rich list. It is possible to see Rinehart's portfolio of coal and iron ore production spinning off annual profits approaching $10 billion, giving her a personal net worth of more than $100 billion.
In July the Economic Times wrote given her legendary reclusiveness, her India visit in June this year went largely unnoticed. Rinehart attended GV Krishna (GVK) Reddy's granddaughter's Rs 100-crore wedding in Hyderabad, with a couple of Australian parliamentarians in tow. MPs as guests at the wedding of an Indian business family that might do business in Australia - this sort of thing is a lot more frowned upon in Canberra than in New Delhi. GVK Reddy, 72, is ranked #47 on Forbes India's Richest list with a fortune of just over $1 billion.
Billionaire Reddy to Sell $1 Billion Unit Stake to Buy Mines
By Rajesh Kumar Singh and Sharang Limaye
19 September 2011
GVK Group, controlled by Indian billionaire G.V. Krishna Reddy, plans to raise $1 billion selling a stake in its energy unit to help fund the purchase of coal assets from a company owned by Australia's richest woman.
The group that runs airports and builds power plants and highways, plans to sell the stake in GVK Coal Developers (Singapore) Pte. in three to six months, said G.V. Sanjay Reddy, vice chairman of GVK Power & Infrastructure Ltd., the group's publicly traded unit. GVK agreed to pay $1.26 billion to buy a 79 percent stake in Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting Pty. coal assets, according to a statement e-mailed on Sept. 16.
Utilities in Asia's second-fastest growing major economy are seeking fuel in Australia and Indonesia to overcome a local shortfall as they build power plants. The GVK Group may spend a total of $2.1 billion, including development costs, for the purchase, Chief Financial Officer Isaac George said. The company will borrow $1 billion, he said.
"The acquisition will give the coal security for its power plants and also make it a notable player in coal, which is so much in demand today," said Jagannadham Thunuguntla, chief strategist at New Delhi-based SMS Wealth Management Services.
GVK Coal is buying the 79 percent stake in the Alpha and Alpha West projects, all of the Kevin's Corner project as well as the rail and port projects connecting the coal deposits to Abbot Point in Australia's Queensland state. Privately held Hancock Prospecting is chaired by Rinehart, the first woman to top Forbes Asia's list of Australia's richest people.
"This deal will help us secure fuel for our thermal power projects," George said in a telephone interview on Sept. 17. "We are also planning to enter the business of commodity trading of coal."
GVK agreed to pay $500 million once the transaction is completed, followed by $200 million one year from the deal closing. It will pay an additional $560 million after the financial closure of the project, expected to be in 2012. Funding for the acquisition is "tied up with banks," GVK said in the statement, without disclosing names of the lenders.
Hyderabad-based GVK will keep GVK Power & Infrastructure, which had 52.5 billion rupees ($1.1 billion) of long-term debt at the end of March 31, or almost double the company's market value, out of the fund-raising process, Reddy said in a separate interview on Sept. 17.
GVK Power & Infrastructure will own 10 percent of GVK Coal with an option to raise the stake to 49 percent, according to the statement. GVK Power & Infrastructure will invite Rinehart on its board as a director, according to the statement.
"They may be stretching themselves too thin for the acquisition," said Thunuguntla. "Even if the listed company's contribution is not major, in the event of any risk, it will have to bear the onus being the largest company in the group."
GVK Power & Infrastructure rose 3.5 percent to 17.60 rupees at 9:59 a.m. in Mumbai trading after climbing as much as 7.4 percent, the most since Feb. 11. The stock has dropped 56 percent this year, after reports of the purchase began in January.
At full output, the projects may produce 84 million metric tons of coal annually, GVK said in the Sept. 16 statement. Production is scheduled to start in 2014 at a rate of 30 million tons of power station coal a year, the company said. Development of the first phase of output is estimated to cost $10 billion, it said.
"We have a feeling that the project development cost can be significantly brought down to $7 billion," Reddy said. "This can happen through cost optimization and outsourcing a range of activities such as coal washing and laying rail tracks."
Ernst & Young LLP was the sole financial adviser to GVK, according to the statement. The transaction is expected to close in two weeks, the statement said.
--With assistance from Pooja Thakur in Mumbai. Editors: John Chacko, Indranil Ghosh
Chhattisgarh coal blocks a test case for acquiring tribal lands
By Aman Seth
18 September 2011
MoEF grants forest clearance, but FRA, PESA compliance still needed
This wedding season, anxious grooms from Parsa and Ghatburra, two villages in Chhattisgarh's Surguja district, were offered financial assistance from an unlikely source. Adani Mining Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of Adani Enterprises Ltd, was handing out loans to all those who could prove that the money would be spent on marriage arrangements.
"A company official took us to the bank, opened accounts in our names, and gave us cheques of Rs. 20,000 each. He then took us to the tehsildar and made us sign an agreement," said Mohar Sai, a resident of Parsa, who said he knew of about 20 villagers who had taken such loans.
Mr. Sai said that in loan agreements, made out on stamp paper in the presence of the tehsildar, villagers promised to repay the company from money received when their lands in Parsa East and Kente Basan were acquired by the district administration and turned into a coalmine operated by Adani Mining.
"The company came to us and said the villagers needed the money. We told them to approach villagers through the Gram Sabha," said Surguja Upper Collector H.L. Nayak.
But what if the project proposal was rejected? Would the company forfeit the money?
"The government would acquire the land anyway," said Mr. Nayak. "The company would have to deal directly with the villagers for the money."
When the Adanis began handing out marriage loans in March this year, the future of their coalmine was far from certain, as the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had already rejected proposals to mine in the area on three separate occasions in 2010.
Finally, in June 2011, then-Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh lost his long-running battle with the Coal and Power Ministries and was forced to open up the coal-rich, heavily forested region of Hasdeo Arand in Chhattisgarh to mining for the first time. Stage I forest clearance was granted to three blocks "on the fringe" of the area: Parsa East and Kante Basan - both of which will be operated by the Adani group - and Tara.
While that initial battle might have been decided in New Delhi, many uncertainties still remain on the ground in Chhattisgarh. Under the law, tribals and forest dwellers in the area also have rights to the forest land, which must be settled before mining can begin. The local gram sabhas must be consulted - and their consent might be needed - before land acquisition and compensation can be finalised. Hence, the Adanis effort to smooth their way by spreading around some cash in wedding season.
Private or public sector?
Given that the public sector use of the coal was one of the key reasons that Mr. Ramesh gave for clearing the blocks in defiance of his own Forest Advisory, it is interesting to explore the role of Adani, a private sector player.
In 2008, Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd (RVUNL), a public sector company, and Adani Enterprises formed a company called Parsa Kente Collieries Ltd (PKCL) and applied for the Parsa East and Kente Basan coal blocks to feed RVUNL's thermal power plants in Rajasthan. According to the Adani group website, Adani Mining Pvt Ltd signed an agreement with the newly formed PKCL for "obtaining approvals (including approval of mining plan), acquisition of land, setting up washery and construction of railway siding at the mine."
Over 2009, 2010 and 2011, the Forest Advisory Committee repeatedly advised against granting mining leases in the area, saying that it would destroy dense forests that sustained a rich ecosystem inhabited by elephants, leopards and sloth bears. The MoEF upheld the committee's recommendations thrice, but then overturned its earlier decision this June.
In his approval order, Mr. Ramesh noted that the Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had persistently lobbied for clearance for Parsa East and Kente Basan as the coal was needed for a state-owned project. This despite the privately-held Adani group owning 74 percent equity in PKCL, the company tasked with operating the mine. Coal washery rejects from Parsa will also be used to set up a 1080 MW thermal power plant in Surguja that will be wholly owned and operated by Adani Mining Pvt Ltd.
Preparations for mining are underway in Surguja - survey teams can be seen across the area, boring for mineral cores and verifying land ownership records before the process of land acquisition formally begins, but several land issues are yet to be resolved.
Forest rights incomplete
Before final clearance, the state must prove full compliance with the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 which grants tenancy rights to tribes who can prove residence on forest land prior to December 13, 2005. As per the Act, a tribesperson must fill out a form staking his/her claims and no one can be evicted from such land until the verification of claims is complete. Both the FAC report and interviews with village officials reveal that the verification process is far from complete.
"Only 34 of 302 applications [to the Forest Department] have been settled in Ghatburra panchayat," said Amresh Markam, the Sarpanch of Ghatbarra, in a recent interview, "All 302 applications are for lands that shall be taken by the coalfield."
"So far only 77 out of 193 applications for forest land in Salhi and Hariharpur have been processed," said Satish Agarwal, who served on the village level forest committee for both villages.
According to officials, the district administration is yet to ascertain the exact number of unprocessed applications for forest land. "We are still tabulating the number of applications. But all applications shall be dealt with before the land is handed over for coal mining," said Mr. T.R. Agrawal, the officer in charge of land acquisition.
It may be pertinent to note that in other high-profile cases such as the Posco integrated steel project and Vedanta's bauxite mine, both in Orissa, protests over the lack of FRA compliance stalled projects even after the Stage I clearance had been granted.
PESA: Gram sabha consent?
Apart from FRA clearance, the state government must also prove that the land was acquired in compliance with the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) of 1996, which is applicable in tribal areas like Surguja. In its 2009 report, ‘Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas', the Planning Commission notes that "Schedule V and PESA are powerful legislation...but implementation of this law is weak and ineffective." Of particular contention is a provision that states that tribal lands can be acquired only in consultation with the gram sabha.
But is 'consultation' the same as 'consent'?
In an interview last month Vivek Dhand, Principal Secretary for Rural Development, disagreed. "As per our reading, the PESA simply mandates that the gram sabha be consulted before any decision is taken," he said, a stand at odds with that of Jairam Ramesh, now Union Minister for Rural Development.
"In my reading of PESA, it is 'consent', not simply consultation, but the [Chhattisgarh] State government thinks otherwise. If required we will seek a legal opinion on the matter," Mr. Ramesh said, but declined to provide a timeframe for when this opinion would be sought.
The distinction is of particular import in the Parsa East and Kente Basan area where gram sabhas have agreed to part with their land only if a broad charter of demands is met. The demands include compensation to the tune of Rs. 50 lakh per acre of land and Rs. 10 lakh per house, Rs. 1 lakh for every fruit-bearing mango tree and Rs. 2 lakh for every fruit-bearing tamarind tree.
Surguja Upper Collector, Mr. Nayak said the land would be acquired at Rs. 12 lakh, Rs. 8 lakh and Rs. 6 lakh per hectare in accordance with State government policy. Thus the gram sabha has certainly been ‘consulted', but its ‘consent' is yet to be established.