Millennium Post

New Vedanta CEO sees firm emerging as one of world's largest resource companies

New Delhi: Vedanta Resources' new chief executive Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan believes the oil-to-aluminum group can turn into one of the world's largest resource companies by expanding outside India without compromising on growth within the country.

Venkatakrishnan, a highly regarded mining executive, took over as the chief executive officer of Vedanta Resources on August 31, replacing Tom Albanese, the former head of Rio Tinto.

The 53-year-old, who worked at AngloGold, one of the world's biggest gold producers, for 18 years - the past five as chief executive - wants to give it back to India by building the company into a giant producer of commodities that India needs to curb its reliance on imports, create jobs and reduce poverty. In an interview to PTI, Venkatakrishnan, known in industry circles as Venkat, said huge opportunities exist and Vedanta can be turned into one of the largest resource companies.

"If you look at diversified companies, they come with a bright and strong heritage. Vedanta has a strong heritage in terms of India. Exxon has roots as an American company, BP as a UK company. Likewise, Vedanta starting its root in India I believe can actually grow broader than India without compromising the growth in India, looking elsewhere as well and becoming one of the largest resource companies. I believe this is possible," he said.

The company has already demonstrated the potential in terms of the growth trajectory it has witnessed in past few years, he said. The goal is to invest in more local production of all commodities. Vedanta will invest USD 8 billion in the next two-and-a-half years, bigger than miners such as Rio Tinto Group and Anglo have pledged to spend over a similar period.

On the shutdown of copper smelting plant at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu following the killing of protesters in police firing, Venkat said he believes that issue can be resolved through proper consultations and dialogue.

Vedanta has a "very good track record for sustainability," he said without elaborating.

Mining mogul Anil Agarwal, who controls Vedanta, said Venkat is a widely respected business leader in the global resources space and has a strong record managing a complex portfolio of operating assets and projects across Africa.

"I am very pleased that he has joined. Everybody knows about him," Agarwal told PTI.

Vedanta is due to start production at a big zinc mine in South Africa later this year and Venkat said opportunities in Africa are huge. "Mr Agarwal is the single biggest foreign investor in South Africa," he said. "Outlook is bright. I am very optimistic in terms of future." He said he wants to give back to his motherland. "Certainly Mr Agarwal and Vedanta could have picked up anybody but he picked up. I certainly want to give back to India what India gave to me. This is a chance to pay back," he said.

Venkat said he was born in India and lived in the country till 1988 before moving to the UK and then to Africa.

"I am hugely excited in joining Vedanta. Certainly what Mr Agarwal has achieved by building this group into multi-commodity resource company which is not just one of the biggest in India but competing at world stage has been phenomenal and has attracted me hugely to it," he said.

Under Venkatakrishnan - an accountant by training, AngloGold completed two new mining projects and achieved significant reductions in costs and debt at the same time as improving productivity

Vedanta owns power plants as well as oilfields and aluminium smelters. It has operations in zinc, lead, silver and iron ore crossing four continents.

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