A $10 billion price tag for Holcim’s India assets in India was too steep, Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of Aditya Birla Group said on Wednesday. “I would have liked to own the cement units of Gujarat Ambuja and ACC, but not at that price,” he told CNBC TV18 in Davos on Wednesday, in his first public comments after the Adanis won the three-horse race (JSW Group was also in the fray).
Birla said he is convinced the group has other options, given that it is deeply embedded in the cement space, has channel partners across the country and can expand both through greenfield and brownfield projects. “We understand Competition Commission of India (CCI) and we could have put a scheme to see it through. I think we would have had to sell some assets, but it was mainly the price,” Birla said.
The Birla Group chief said he is open to buying assets that the government may put on the block, for example copper assets, if they are value accretive.
The AB Group is among the country’s biggest conglomerates with $45 billion revenue and businesses ranging from aluminum to apparel. The group has roughly 120 mtpa of cement capacity housed in Ultratech.
It has ambitious plans in the paints sector and is making an investment of Rs 10,000 crore in the hope of becoming the number two player in five years, Birla said.
Birla believes it is time for some new investors to infuse funds into Vodafone-Idea. Both the Birla Group and Vodafone, he said, had put in another tranche of equity about three months ago and remained committed to the business. At the same time, he feels there is fair bit of interest from investors who see room for an upside particularly after the government’s relief package.
Speaking about new initiatives, he said the group would make bets in the digital and e-commerce space but that these would be calibrated. Some of these could be in the edtech or health-tech spaces, he observed.