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Tata Steel looks for raw material in Brazil

By Nevin John in Mumbai
May 07, 2008 01:43 IST
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Tata Steel, the world's sixth-largest steel maker, is looking to acquire Brazilian iron ore assets of the United Kingdom-based London Mining, which will help ensure raw material supply for its Anglo-Dutch subsidiary, Corus. The valuation of the asset is yet to be completed, but analysts said that it would be in the range of $2 billion.

Tata Steel is among various global steel and mining majors that have shown interest in acquiring the assets after London Mining said it was reconsidering its investments in Brazil last month.

"London Mining is conducting a strategic review after receiving numerous expressions of interest regarding sale or partial sale of its operations," said a source familiar with the development.

When contacted, a Tata Steel spokesperson said, "While Tata Steel is scanning all opportunities to ensure raw material security for its global operations, we are not in any position to communicate any details on any of them. But specifically about London Mining, we have no specific interest and therefore cannot comment on details."

London Mining has appointed UBS as its financial advisor for the deal.

London Mining, which owns assets in Sierra Leone, Saudi Arabia, Greenland and Mexico, is currently undertaking studies to verify the level of resources contained in its Brazilian mine, in the Serra Azul region, in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais.

Raw material security is the prime concern of the steel makers in the wake of volatile steel prices. Companies are planning their expansions upon cheaper and sustainable raw material availability. Brazil gives geographical advantage to ship the raw materials to Corus units at relatively lower costs, said sources in the know.

The Indian conglomerate is interested in Brazil because it has one of the world's largest reserves of minerals and iron ore. According to the United States Geological Survey, Brazil has produced 300 million tonnes of iron ore last year, which stands second to China's 520 million tonnes.

Raw material for Tata Steel's plants in India are sourced from captive mines. Corus, which produces 20 million tonnes of steel a year, is facing raw material shortage. The company's iron ore security stands at just 15 per cent.

Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata had earlier said that the Indian conglomerate plans to invest about $15 billion in Brazil through various group companies. "Brazil has a huge potential market. I am naturally attracted to it," a report quoted Tata as saying.

The Tata Group has nearly 20 executives in Brazil to decide where to make investments, the report said, adding that the group is especially interested in ethanol, beverages, automobiles and metal production.

Recent reports said that Tata Steel had made a hostile offer to acquire Brazilian iron ore miner AVG, which is owned by global mineral giant MMX. Though Tata Steel later denied the takeover rumours, company executives didn't deny interest in the iron ore company.

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Nevin John in Mumbai
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