Acquisitive Indian billionaire says he is hungry for more deals

By Bhuma Shrivastava and Haslinda Amin

Kumar Mangalam Birla, the billionaire-chairman of the Indian conglomerate who takes over his name, said he is hungry for more deals after creating the nation's largest mobile phone provider.

His Aditya Birla Group continues to look for targets in the US, Europe and India that are meaningful and likely to add value, the 51-year-old said at Bloomberg's Indian Economic Forum on September 18 in Mumbai. He did not specify names.

Birla, a $ 44 billion conglomerate selling everything from insulator to insurance, illustrates India's rise as a powerhouse for mergers and acquisitions, with transactions where local companies recorded records by more than $ 100 billion this year – a trend that PwC India predicts will be continued in 2019. An important incentive: banks take bad loans by keeping companies in the hands of defaulters in the neighborhood.

This is because the nation's central bank is inducing local lenders to restructure an estimated $ 49.3 billion in acid loans in the wake of a new bankruptcy law implemented by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"This government is starting to tackle it and grab the bull by the horns," said Birla. "Bad loans have been around for a long time and have just been cleaned under the carpet."

Although he did not mention any targets, Birla & # 39; s track record indicates that he will not only view the expected amount of assets offered for sale.

His companies have carried out numerous deals, the latest being the merger of Birla's Idea Cellular Ltd. with the local unit of Vodafone Group Plc is to create India & # 39; s largest transporter. In July, his Hindalco Industries Ltd. announced the purchase of Aleris Corp. for about $ 2.6 billion to tap global demand for metal from the automotive industry. UltraTech Cement Ltd. is also looking for distressed Binani Cement, although that chase is in a legal dispute.

Part of Birla's hunger for deals is because of his optimism about the Indian economy, which he compared with an elephant that is starting to run. The gross domestic product grew by 8.2 percent in June compared to a year earlier, the government said last month.

"You can not ignore India," said Birla. "There is no legitimate reason not to invest in India."

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