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Abu Dhabi’s IRH explores major stake purchase in Vedanta’s Zambian copper holdings

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Abu Dhabi’s International Resources Holding (IRH) mining investment division is reportedly in negotiations to acquire a controlling interest in Vedanta Resources’ Zambian copper assets, according to Reuters.

Sources familiar with the matter revealed that IRH’s subsidiary recently made a non-binding offer of over $1 billion to purchase a 51% stake in KCM from Vedanta, owned by Indian tycoon Anil Agarwal. The offer, exceeding $1 billion, forms part of a broader strategy by oil-rich nations like the UAE and Saudi Arabia to secure critical metal supplies from Africa, aligning with the global shift towards green energy.

However, discussions are ongoing, and the bid for a majority stake remains non-binding. Vedanta has historically aimed to retain control of these assets on its balance sheet, which could complicate the sale of a controlling interest. Vedanta, holding an 80% stake in KCM, is exploring options to divest a portion of its ownership and has enlisted Standard Chartered to manage the process.

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The objective is to raise funds for the rejuvenation of the assets, which faced challenges during an ownership dispute with the Zambian government starting in 2019. The Zambian government, through ZCCM Investments Holdings, retains a 20% stake in KCM.

Interest in KCM extends beyond IRH, as Vedanta is open to selling either a minority or majority stake. Standard Chartered has invited proposals from potential investors for a minority interest. Following a series of legal battles and international arbitration, Vedanta regained control of KCM from the previous Zambian government, which had alleged insufficient investment and had taken over the mines and smelting plant.

In February, Vedanta’s base metals unit CEO, Chris Griffith, stated plans to raise approximately $1 billion for investment in the assets over the next five years, with an additional $300 million earmarked for settling outstanding local debts. This investment would support the Konkola Deep Mining Project, housing one of the world’s richest copper deposits.

IRH’s interest in KCM centers on acquiring a majority stake, given the significant investment required and the current lack of profitability, making a passive investment less appealing.

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