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Harbinger backs Sterlite in Asarco acquisition

August 05, 2009 03:08 IST
Sterlite Industries, the flagship firm of London-listed Vedanta, may get the support of rival bidder Harbinger Capital Partners in its takeover plan for the bankrupt US copper mining firm, Asarco. Harbinger has decided to withdraw from the race, informing the bankruptcy court that its plan to restructure Asarco should not be considered.

Harbinger had given a $500 million takeover offer to the US bankruptcy court at Corpus Christi in May, countering the bids of Sterlite and Grupo Mexico, the estranged parent of Asarco.

In court papers filed on Monday, Harbinger said its plan for Asarco should be set aside. Later, a confirmation hearing was held on the other two plans, of Grupo and Sterlite. If both plans fail to get confirmation from the court, the hedge-fund's proposal will be revived as per the rules, said informed sources.

Harbinger, which has support from Citigroup Global Markets Inc, earlier extended its support to Asarco in the fight against Grupo Mexico and the environmental suits. Asarco, which owns three copper mines in Arizona, was sued for $1.6 billion due in an environmental clean-up suit.

According to court documents, Citigroup and Harbinger together comprise Asarco's largest bondholders and their support is crucial for Sterlite, said industry experts.

The Indian copper producer had offered $1.1 billion in cash and about $600 million of senior secured notes, payable over nine years, to Asarco. In a counter bid, Grupo had offered $1.3 billion in cash and a $250 million fully committed loan to regain control of Asarco.

A couple of days earlier, Vedanta chief executive M S Mehta said in London that the company has "no immediate plans" to raise the bid it made to acquire Asarco. "Our bid reflects the current market conditions," he added.

Sterlite is the preferred suitor by Asarco's unions, management and creditors, Mehta said in a conference call to analysts, after the release of its first quarter earnings.

Nevin John