March 29, 2017 / 8:38 AM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 2-Vedanta's Agarwal says no plans to buy Anglo American assets in South Africa

(Updates with comment from Anglo American chairman)

By Julia Payne and Gus Trompiz

LAUSANNE, March 29 (Reuters) - The chairman of Indian miner Vedanta Resources said on Wednesday he had no plans to buy assets in South Africa from Anglo American or push for a board seat after announcing plans to buy a 13 percent stake in the mining giant.

Indian billionaire and Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal said this month he would buy a 2 billion pound ($2.5 billion) stake in Anglo American, but said the purchase would be via his family trust Volcan Holdings rather than Vedanta.

He has said he has no intention of taking control of Anglo American.

“I believe in the management, I believe in the company ... and felt that if I have a resource that I should make an investment in it,” Agarwal told the FT Commodities Summit in Switzerland.

Asked if he was looking to buy assets from Anglo American in South Africa, he said: “Not at all.”

Agarwal also said he would be happy to help Anglo American move into India if the company wished “at some point in time to expand their business.”

Last year, Anglo American’s shares gained nearly 300 percent, making it the best performer on the London FTSE as the mining industry recovered from a slump in commodity prices in 2015 and early 2016. Shares are up about 5 percent this year.

“I’m not an activist,” Agarwal said of his potential role as an Anglo American shareholder and said he had “no agenda” to seek a board position.

He said Vedanta did not have any plans to acquire more assets in Africa and was focusing on expanding its zinc business in southern Africa after investing $4 billion.

Agarwal has majority control of Hindustan Zinc Ltd through the Vedanta group that he founded and still controls.

He said he does not intend to keep Vedanta within family hands and would withdraw from the group in the next few years.

Anglo American chairman, John Parker, said Agarwal would be treated like the other shareholders and his ideas would be listened to.

“He’s (Agarwal) a new shareholder in our register and will be treated with the same respect as we endeavour with all our shareholders,” Parker said.

Parker, who has been chairman for eight years, is due to step down this year. He told the FT summit that too much investment in future supply was the downfall for the industry.

“For some reason if you go back in history, the price of tulips in Holland in the 18th century, you find hubris was somewhere at work. People forget the hard lessons learned the last time around. This is very prevalent in shipping,” he said.

“This was primarily a supply crisis rather than demand. We as an industry over invested. To the new chairman, I would say for goodness sake pay attention to capital investment discipline.” (Editing by Edmund Blair and David Evans)

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