India Sterlite Ind to buy Asarco for $2.6 bln

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's Sterlite Industries STRL.BOSLT.N on Saturday agreed to buy the operating assets of bankrupt copper miner Asarco for $2.6 billion, the latest in the series of overseas acquisitions by Indian firms.

Tuscon-based Asarco, the third largest copper maker in U.S. had total revenue of $1.9 billion in 2007, Sterlite, a unit of Vedanta Resources Plc VED.L said in a statement.

“Asarco is a strategic fit with Sterlite’s existing copper business,” the Indian firm said in the statement.

On Friday a lawyer close to the deal had told Reuters in New York that Vedanta had signed a $2.6 billion deal to buy the assets of Asarco.

Asarco, formerly known as American Smelting and Refining Co, produced 235,000 tonnes of refined copper in 2007 and its mines have an estimated reserve of 5 million tonnes of contained copper.

It filed for bankruptcy protection in 2005 after it was sued for $1 billion over environmental and asbestos claim.

Sterlite, is India’s top non-ferrous metals and mining firm with interests in aluminium, copper, zinc and lead.

The deal, subject to the approval of a U.S. Bankruptcy Court, will be funded through a mix of debt and existing cash, Sterlite said.

Last June, it had raised $1.75 billion in American depositary shares to pay for possible acquisitions and cut debt.

Indian firms coming of years of strong profitable growth and clean balance sheets that aid easy access to capital have been snapping up overseas firms to expand their presence globally.

Cellular firm Reliance Communications Ltd RLCM.BO has started talks with South Africa's MTN MTN.J that could culminate in the creation of a $66 billion telecom group.

Tata Steel TISC.BO, last year engineered India's biggest takeover to date, a $13 billion purchase of Anglo-Dutch steel maker Corus Group and aluminium maker Hindalco Industries HALC.BO bought Canada's Novelis for $5.9 billion including debt.

Tata Motors TAMO.BO in March agreed to buy the Jaguar and Land Rover Brands from Ford Motor Co F.N for $2.3 billion.

Indian firm have announced outbound merger and acquisition deals worth $7.1 billion so far in 2008, Thomson Reuters data showed.

ABN AMRO advised Sterlite and it was Lehman Brothers LEH.N for Asarco, the statement said.

Shares in Sterlite, which has a market value of $15.6 billion, ended 2.8 percent down at 934.90 rupees on Friday in a firm Mumbai market.

Reporting by Narayanan Somasundaram, Nidhi Verma and Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Louise Heavens