As India remained a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy global economic scenario, the country’s corporate sector showed a good appetite for acquisitions in 2022, a year which also saw the downfall of some of its prominent leaders. Cement, retail, pharmaceuticals and quick commerce were the sectors that witnessed multi-crore deals as players sought to enhance their respective positions in the industry.
India Inc also lost two of its leaders — former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry in an accident that brought to the fore the need to wear seat belts even while seated on rear seats, and Vikram Kirloskar, vice-chairman of Toyota Kirloskar Motor due to a heart attack.
The cement industry hogged the limelight in 2022 as far as acquisitions were concerned, with Asia’s richest man Gautam Adani-led Adani Group acquiring the cement business of Swiss building material major Holcim, consisting of Ambuja Cement and ACC, through a USD 6.4 billion deal in September.
The acquisition gave the ports-to-power conglomerate Adani Group a foothold in the cement sector, making it the second largest company after Aditya Birla Group firm UltraTech Cement, which had earlier announced a nearly Rs 13,000 crore expansion to maintain its lead.
In December, debt-ridden Jaypee Group announced the sale of its cement business to Dalmia Cement (Bharat) Ltd at an enterprise value of Rs 5,666 crore, exiting from the segment.
Interestingly, in the retail sector, it was the collapse of the Rs 24,713-crore deal of Reliance to acquire the retail business of the Kishore Biyani-led Future group in April which stood out.
Yet, billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance ended the year acquiring the Indian cash and carry business along with assets of Germany’s METRO AG in a Rs 2,850 crore deal. It comprised the operative businesses of all 31 Metro India stores as well as the real estate portfolio that includes six store-occupied properties and gave Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd (RRVL), the retail arm of Reliance Industries, a significant boost.
Earlier in the year, RRVL announced its foray into the FMCG business and acquired the home-grown soft drink brand Campa, among some other brands. It also introduced its own brand for staples, processed foods, beverages and other daily essentials. Now Reliance will take on the FMCG food businesses of ITC, Tata Consumer Products Ltd and Adani Wilmar.
Reliance Retail has become India’s biggest brick-and-mortar retailer with over 16,600 stores. It is ranked 56th amongst the top global retailers with USD 18 billion in revenues and is the world’s second-fastest-growing retail company behind only South Korea’s Coupang.
However, for Kishore Biyani — the pioneer of modern retail in India — it was a year to forget as his Future Retail empire witnessed a near collapse.
Once a prominent player in the Indian retail industry with around 1,500 stores under formats such as Big Bazaar, Easyday Club, smaller neighbourhood stores such as Nilgiri’s, Heritage fresh, and fashion retailers such as FBB and Central, among others, it went into insolvency with many of the group firms repeatedly defaulting on repayments to lenders.
The lenders dragged the group companies before NCLT with pleas to initiate insolvency proceedings. Some of them are also facing forensic audits from their lenders.
Future Retail, the flagship firm of Biyani’s group, now has 13 companies, including Reliance Retail and Flemingo group, a part of the Adani group, in the race to acquire it through insolvency proceedings.
In the pharma sector, promoters of Suven Pharmaceuticals, the Jasti family selling 50.1 per cent stake in the company for Rs 6,313.08 crore to global private equity investor Advent International in December was the major deal of the year.
Advent followed it up with an announcement for an open offer to acquire 26 per cent more in the listed contract development and manufacturing organisation from public shareholders, entailing a total outgo of Rs 3,276.25 crore, if fully subscribed.
The PE major intends to explore the merger of its portfolio company Cohance with Suven to build a leading end-to-end Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO) and merchant Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) player servicing the pharma and specialty chemical markets.
Earlier in September, Torrent Pharmaceuticals inked a pact to acquire Sequoia-backed Curatio Healthcare for Rs 2,000 crore to strengthen its presence in the dermatology segment.
Chennai-headquartered Curatio has a portfolio of over 50 brands, including Tedibar, Atogla, Spoo, B4 Nappi and Permite, in the cosmetic dermatology segment in India.
With the pandemic accelerating growth of e-commerce, specially quick commerce in India, online food delivery platform Zomato announced the acquisition of Blink Commerce Pvt Ltd (formerly known as Grofers) for Rs 4,447.48 crore in a share swap deal as part of its strategy of investing in quick commerce business.
On the other hand, salt-to-software conglomerate Tata group launched its super app Tata Neu, bringing all its brands on one platform as it sought to play a major role in the Indian e-commerce space dominated by the likes of Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart.
The media and entertainment sector also had its share of consolidations with the finalisation of Zee Entertainment’s merger with rival Culver Max Entertainment (earlier Sony Pictures Network India).
Similarly, India’s leading multiplex operator PVR announced a merger with rival Inox Leisure, creating an entity operating nearly 1,500 screens across the country.
One of the major developments of the year in news broadcasting industry was the takeover of NDTV by the Adani Group. It started after the Adani Group acquired a 29.18 per cent stake in NDTV by buying a company backed by the television network’s founders, Prannoy Roy and his wife Radhika Roy. Thereafter, it made an open offer to acquire an additional 26 per cent from public shareholders.
After the Adani Group acquired a further 8.26 per cent stake, taking its total interest to 37.44 per cent in NDTV — higher than the 32.26 per cent held by the founders, the latter decided to sell 27.26 per cent of their holding.
The sale will happen on or after December 30 in one or more tranches. After this acquisition, Adani Group will control 69.71 per cent of NDTV.
The year also witnessed the exit of media baron Subhash Chandra-led promoter family’s nominee Jawahar Goel from the driving seat of Dish TV after shareholders of the DTH operator, led by Yes Bank, rejected a proposal to reappoint him as Managing Director.
Another corporate leader who hit a low was Videocon Group founder Venugopal Dhoot, who was arrested by the CBI in connection with the ICICI Bank loan fraud case following the arrests of former CEO and MD of the lender Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar.
As for the corporate fight of the year, it went to the Kirloskar siblings — with Kirloskar Brothers Ltd (KBL) Chairman and Managing Director Sanjay Kirloskar on one side and Kirloskar Pneumatic Co Ltd Executive Chairman Rahul Kirloskar and Kirloskar Oil Engines Ltd Executive Chairman Atul Kirloskar on the other.
They have been in a feud since 2016 over the deed of family settlement for the assets of the more than 130-year-old Kirloskar group.
It escalated after Rahul and Atul had raised questions over corporate governance of KBL after being cleared of insider trading charges by the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT). They were accused of insider trading when they sold shares of KBL to KIL back in 2010.
Shareholders of KBL rejected a resolution for forensic audit of the affairs of the company by an external agency, which was demanded by Kirloskar Industries Ltd (KIL) along with Atul and Rahul.
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