Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla Group, on Wednesday said he still wishes they could have acquired Holcim's India assets and said the price was simply too steep.
In conversation with CNBC-TV18's Shereen Bhan in Davos, Birla termed the valuation of the Holcim deal, at over $10 billion, as expensive. The Adani Group has signed a deal to buy Holcim's assets.
“It would have been nice to have, but you know, at a (reasonable) price. I think that if you have other options where you can build assets at a much lower costs, that obviously would be a preferred bet,” Birla said.
He explained that it was a price issue, and nothing else. "There was a problem with CCI, but it is something that we understand well, and could have submitted a plan to push this scheme through," he said, adding, "We would have had to sell assets, if I remember it right, but I think essentially, it boiled down to the price.”
Birla, however, said the group will continue to look for the right opportunities to expand its cement business. “It is all about valuation, at the end of the day. We are looking at growth options. It just comes down to what creates more value for us," he said.
Foray into paints
Birla revealed what he called "ambitious plans" for his group to corner the paints market, with a starting investment of Rs 10,000 crore.
“We said when we announced our foray into paints that we have a natural right to win — when I say win, I don't mean against Asian Paints. I have great respect for that company. But what I am saying is that we have a great reason to be in the business, which is that we have an overlap of a whole distribution network for cement and white cement. We have very ambitious plans, we hope to start manufacturing and being in the market sometime in the first half of calendar year 2024. We have every reason to believe that we would be a very strong number two in the next five years," he said.
On Vodafone Idea, Birla said it's time now to get outside equity into the company. He also spoke about potential new investments and said he is looking at fintech, edtech and other new-age businesses.
On India growth story, Birla said, “India actually stands out because we are going to be the fastest-growing economy in the world, 7.50- 8 percent or whatever it is. I think that is clearly recognised by people over here. So that felt good. I think that the government is doing a lot of things to contain inflation,” he added.
“My view on India is very, very bullish. I see, you have got two engines of growth — the traditional businesses like us, and the new startups. You also have a situation where the corporates have cleaned up that a large part of them, and you have banks who clean up their books. So great combination, and hugely potent time for growth," Birla added.
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