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Indian Companies Become Major Players in Overseas Acquisitions

Leading Indian companies have recently made a string of overseas acquisitions. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the takeovers reflect India's increasingly greater role in the global economy.

Indian companies are on a shopping spree. Hindalco Industries recently acquired the Canadian aluminum company Novelis for $6 billion. That came on the heels of an even larger acquisition: the takeover of the Netherlands-based steel maker, Corus, by India's Tata conglomerate for nearly $12 billion.

The two firms have led the way in large takeovers over the last several years, as Indian companies begin scouting for growth opportunities overseas.

The value of takeovers by Indian firms has risen sharply, from less than $1 billion in 2000 to an estimated $8 billion last year. Acquisitions in the first six weeks of 2007 added up to more than $18 billion.

D.H. Pai Panandiker, the head of New Delhi's independent economic think tank, the RPG Foundation, says more and more Indian corporations are looking abroad for growth.

"Many of the companies are now loaded with funds, and they want a quick expansion, and this they can do only by acquiring other companies. Now in the domestic market, it will be difficult for them to acquire companies," he said. "So I think cross-border acquisitions will be the trend of the day."

The Indian companies' impressive buying power is partly due to healthy profits made in a booming economy, and partly because a surging stock market has raised their valuations many times.

Panaindiker say companies going global are seeking a variety of benefits, including expansion, and securing export markets.

"One is [they want] instant increase in size. Number two, they want to have also the latest technology, which is not easily available," added Panaindiker. "The third reason is acquiring a brand, and fourth, probably, is you are in the international market for marketing."

Companies seeking a foothold overseas range from information technology to pharmaceuticals to manufacturing. The Tatas, for example, have also bought a hotel in New York, pharmaceutical companies have acquired small European firms, and a Bangalore firm has made a bid for a Scottish whisky distiller.

The size of most deals is still small by global standards, averaging about $50 million, but the recent takeovers signal that Indian businessmen are ready to become major players in the field of international acquisitions.

Industry watchers say Indian businessmen are also fueled by new ambitions. The grand old man of India's Information technology industry, N.R. Narayana Murthy, the head of Infosys, recently summed up the ruling sentiment in the boardrooms of Indian corporations.

In his words," the mindset of Indian firms is becoming increasingly globalized. It means the entire globe is our playground."