Essar Global Fund invests, builds and nurtures a portfolio of world-class companies through Essar Capital, its investment manager.
“We will be a respected global entrepreneur, through the power of positive action.”
“We are committed to innovative growth, through our personal passion, reinforced by a professional mindset, creating value for all those we touch”
The 4 pillars of “The Essar Brand”
We want our business to stay personal. We will grow an extended family and enrich the lives of employees, customers and partners.
We will grow and lead. We will focus our energy and entrepreneurial spirit, to pursue measured opportunities, conduct our business with integrity, and earn respect by delivering consistent value.
We are building a global business. We will be a respected household name, in India and internationally, in our core industries and in new promising markets from services to retail.
We are driven by a desire to do better. We will think with the heart and the head, retaining the passion and imagination that has driven us from the very beginning.
Essar Global Fund Limited (“EGFL”) is a global investor, controlling a number of world-class assets diversified across the core sectors of Energy (comprising Exploration & Production, Refining & Marketing and Power businesses), Infrastructure (comprising Ports and EPC businesses), Metals & Minerals, Services (comprising Shipping, and Oilfield services), and Technology (comprising Technology Solutions, Mobile Wallet, Device protection and Customer experience ). EGFL invests long-term capital into the portfolio companies and holds near 100% stake in all its investments. EGFL invests with a sense of active ownership, which involves direct engagement with the management of the respective businesses. The portfolio companies have aggregate revenues of about USD 14 billion and employ over 7,000 people.
Essar Capital Limited (“Essar Capital”) is the investment manager of Essar Global Fund Limited (“EGFL”). It monitors and manages the entire portfolio of investments owned by EGFL. Essar Capital is governed by its board of directors and its responsibilities as investment manager of EGFL include:
- Implementing and managing investments and divestments
- Monitoring performance of the portfolio
- Preparing and delivering financial reports of EGFL
- Implementing and overseeing appropriate policies and procedures
- 1995 – First Mover partnership with Hutchison Whampoa and then with Vodafone
- Investment sold to Vodafone in 2011
- Part Sale of Aegis USA Inc. to Teleperformance at $610 million
- Balance to CSP at $300 million
- Sale of 98% stake in Essar Oil to Roseneft, and Trafigura-led consortium
- Sale included 20 MTPA refinery, retail, port and related infrastructure.
- Sale to American Tower Corporation
- Sale to Brookfield Asset Management Company
Essar Global Fund
The Evolution of Essar
The Essar Group was established by Mr. Shashi Ruia and Mr. Ravi Ruia in 1969, in South India. The company began its operations with the construction of an outer breakwater in Chennai port, an order worth Rs 2.5 crore. Until then, only foreign construction companies would undertake a project of this magnitude and complexity. However, Essar’s chosen policy was to get into areas of import substitution, high technology and national importance.
The 1970s: From construction to shipping
Following this maiden contract, Essar bagged projects at every major port in the country, including Tuticorin, Mangalore, Goa, Kakinada and Nhava-Sheva in Mumbai. Because of Essar’s experience in marine construction projects, the shipping business was a natural extension. This was a time when the movement of petroleum products along the Indian coast was the monopoly of foreign-flag vessels, and no shipping companies in India would venture into this business as it was considered risky and involved the management of advanced technology. Essar saw a great opportunity and bought India’s first private tanker in 1976 for around USD 2 million. The company approached State Bank of India (SBI), a leading public sector bank in India, for a loan. For SBI, the proposal posed a real challenge since it involved a first-of-its-kind transaction for the bank as well! Eventually, the loan was sanctioned, with a repayment structure that was unique for its time. It involved buying an asset against the securitisation of receivables.
The 1980s: Supporting India’s nascent exploration sector
Around this time, Bombay High had just started producing oil, which needed to be transported onshore. Essar teamed up with Brown & Root of USA in laying an under-sea pipeline from the offshore Bassein gas field to Hazira. Later, it went on to buy a specialized pipe-laying barge to undertake this kind of activity.
The construction and shipping businesses grew rapidly and Essar gradually established itself as a leading marine and industrial construction company. In the early 1980s, when the government opened up the ownership and operation of Offshore Supply Vessels (OSV) to private Indian companies, Essar was one of the first to enter the fray. In addition to OSVs, it bought Diving Support Vessels and Multi Support Vessels. The aim was to build a diverse fleet that could help hedge any downturns in the business. As a result, while most shipping companies in India were making losses in the 80s, Essar was reaping profits.
Entering contract drilling
Around the mid-1980s, the Government also opened up the contract drilling business to Indian private companies. Essar again grabbed the opportunity and went on to become India’s largest rig operator in the private sector. It owned 11 land rigs, one offshore rig and a drill ship.
The Late 1980s: Foray into core sector manufacturing
Until the mid-1980s, Essar was focused on the service sectors of construction and shipping, which were prone to cyclical volatility. In order to lend stability to the Group, Essar planned to enter manufacturing. The challenge was to select a sector that was an import substitute, with a product that had long-term demand and served a national purpose.
Stability from steel
India in those days had secondary steel makers who used imported scrap to produce steel. Scrap prices were volatile and had to be purchased with precious foreign exchange. Moreover, the quality of scrap was also not always up to the mark. The only alternative to scrap was sponge iron, but there were no sponge iron manufacturers on the west coast of India despite a large number of users. This prompted Essar to start manufacturing sponge iron. Again, breaking the tradition of locating manufacturing facilities close to the mines, the Company chose to build the plant at Hazira, a port on the west coast of India. Hazira was also the land fall point for gas from the Bassein gas field in Bombay High.
The sponge iron plant became a hugely successful venture. Essar followed up this success, by setting up a pellet plant in Visakhapatnam as part of its backward integration strategy. This was not sufficient for the business to achieve and sustain long-term growth. So Essar set up steel manufacturing facilities at Hazira with the objective of gaining value addition.
The Early 1990s: Making inroads
In the early 1990s, the Indian economy was liberalised and many industries that were hitherto monopolised by public sector companies were opened up to the private sector. Not one to lag behind, Essar seized every opportunity that came its way. The experience in contract drilling prompted the Group to venture into the upstream in the Oil sector—i.e. exploration & production—and downstream, into refining. Essar also entered the power and telecom sectors as and when they were opened up to private participation.
By this time, all of Essar’s businesses had grown significantly and the time had come for managing each business as an independent company. Six business areas in the core sector—Construction, Shipping, Steel, Power, Oil & Gas, and Telecommunications—were identified as growth drivers for the Group.
A slew of projects in each of these businesses were initiated in the 1990s when the Indian economy was booming.
Steel: The uncertainties of a cyclical business
The sponge iron plant, initially set up with a capacity of 0.88 million tonne per annum (MTPA), was expanded to produce 1.32 MTPA. As part of the backward integration, a 4 MTPA pellet plant was set up in Visakhapatnam; forward integration was achieved with a 2 MTPA steel plant. Essar Steel was now a producer of flat steel and joined the select group of Indian companies that produced this commodity.
When Essar conceived the project, international steel prices were in the region of USD 450 per tonne. When commercial production began in 1996, this had fallen to USD 380 per tonne. Worse was to follow.
Essar had financed the project through a combination of rupee debt and Floating Rate Notes (FRN)—both on a five-year tenure. This arrangement was made for two principal reasons: One, Indian financial institutions were not in a position to lend for a longer term; two, raising foreign currency debt beyond five years was not permitted at that time.
The Late 1990s: Financial crisis
The FRNs were due for refinancing in 1999, the year that marked the end of the five-year term. Essar began the process of refinancing one year in advance, in May 1998. The company received underwriting commitments from Chase and Lehman Brothers. Just before the issue was launched, India tested the nuclear bomb at Pokhran. This led to financial sanctions being imposed on India and Indian companies no longer had access to foreign funds. Essar’s Indian lenders refused to bail the company out. Left with no option, Essar was forced to default on the FRN loan, despite having made concrete plans for refinancing.
Simultaneously, global steel prices started tumbling and reached a historic low of USD 180 per tonne. At that price, steel plant operations were simply unsustainable. Many steel companies at that time went down under. Top-lines crashed, while interest rates were at their highest ever (Prime Lending Rates had touched 17 percent). Being one of the low-cost steel producers, Essar managed to make operating profits. But this was not sufficient to meet its debt obligations.
Early 2000s: Rebuilding
Essar did not succumb to the pressure. It vigorously worked towards restructuring its balance sheet, drawing up a three-pronged strategy to address the issue: Increase capacity, move to value-added segments and bring down finance costs.
The steel generation capacity at the Hazira plant was raised from 2 MTPA to 2.4 MTPA through de-bottlenecking. Work also started on expanding capacity from 2.4 MTPA to 4.6 MTPA through brownfield expansion, which requires far less capital than similar greenfield projects The cost of this project was INR 200 billion. This brought down the capital cost per tonne of steel, which helped reduce overall cost of production. Sponge iron generation capacity was also increased to 5.5 MTPA. The Research & Development team developed high-end products for specialized applications, like interstitial free steel for auto and auto components, high-end API grade steel for the petroleum industry, steel conforming to the ABS standard for ship building industry and so on. In this way, the share of value-added products increased from 35 percent to 70 percent of total production.
Essar negotiated with the FRN holders for a one-time settlement and refinanced its entire rupee debt at a lower cost. In order to improve the efficiency, Essar Steel bought Stemcor’s 51 percent stake in HyGrade Pellets Limited, the pellet making venture of Essar. It also bought Stemcor’s 100 percent stake in Steel Corporation of Gujarat (SCGL) which had set up a 1.2 MTPA cold-rolling complex at Hazira. Subsequent to the HyGrade takeover, the pellet making capacity was enhanced to 8 MTPA. At the same time, the 8 MTPA iron ore beneficiation plant at Bailadila and the 267-km slurry pipeline were completed. This has improved the quality of the ore and reduced the transportation cost. The takeover of SCGL has enabled Essar to widen its product base and cater to a larger segment of industries.
All these measures have made Essar Steel, the largest integrated steel producer on India’s west coast and one of the largest producers of flat steel in the country. Essar continues to be the largest Indian exporter of flat steel.
The Power Business
When the power sector was opened up for private participation, Essar was one of the first companies to enter the fray. The power plant was originally conceived to cater to Essar Steel’s requirements, but was later converted to an independent producer with a capacity of 515 MW. The combined cycle power plant was state-of-the-art and was capable of using multi fuel with technology from General Electric, Hanjung and Siemens. The commissioning was completed in October 1997. Today, the Hazira power plant has two power purchase agreements—one with the Gujarat State Electricity Board and the second with Essar Steel. The plant has a high availability factor of 99 percent. The project was funded by Indian financial institutions and the ECB. This debt was refinanced later when the government set up the Power Finance Corporation. This plant helped Essar Constructions garner expertise in building power plants in addition to its valuable experience in other sectors, including the steel plant for Essar Steel.
Essar’s entry into oil & gas refining
The experience of contract drilling gave Essar an opportunity to understand the oil business better, and setting up the refinery was the logical thing to do. Work on the refinery began in 1994, and by 1995, the necessary funding was in place. There was an FCCB (Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds) component that needed to be raised abroad in the latter half of 1998. Work on the refinery was progressing as per schedule till the first quarter of 1998.
In the second quarter, a devastating cyclone hit the western coast of India damaging several structures in the refinery site. Also, the financial sanctions imposed on India subsequent to the Pokhran nuclear test in May 1998 ensured that Essar was banned from raising FCCBs. Both these factors led to a stoppage of work at the refinery
The Mid-2000s: Resurrecting the Essar Oil Refinery
In early 2005, Essar restructured the balance sheet and work resumed with renewed vigor on completing the refinery project. During the period of stoppage, Essar had wisely planned for technology upgrades. Within 18 months after work resumed, Essar began commissioning the refinery in phases. Production started in November 2006 with a capacity of 7.5 MTPA.
The Telecom Business
One of Essar’s strengths has been its ability to invest in businesses that have the potential for growth and its strategy to diversify as a hedge against cyclicality. In 1995, a few months after mobile telephony was opened up to private participation, Essar became the first company to start GSM operations in Delhi under the brand name, Essar Cellphones. Since Essar did not have prior experience in this industry, it roped in Swiss PTT as a joint venture partner. Essar then acquired licenses for Eastern UP, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab.
In those early days of the telecom boom in India, effective policies were lacking and private telecom businesses were faced with several problems. In 1999, the government announced a new telecom policy that was more conducive to growth. Essar braced itself for the oncoming challenge. However, Swiss PTT wanted to shut shop as part of its strategy to exit all Asian operations.
Essar replaced Swiss PTT with Hutchison as partner. The joint venture company then went about consolidating operations and acquiring various telecom circles. In 2005, when the government came out with the unified licensing scheme, the JV started merging all the telecom circles. By 2006, all the circles were under one umbrella—Hutchison Essar Limited. Essar owned 33% stake in the consolidated entity. Independently, Essar had acquired licenses in seven circles where Hutchison Essar did not have operations, and in four circles of BPL. Essar merged these circles into Hutchison Essar to create a telecom major.
In 2006, Hutchison, too, decided to exit India. Essar wanted to buy out Hutchison’s stake and tied up a line of credit of over USD 11 billion. After a fierce round of bidding that involved several corporations, Vodafone bought the Hutchison stake valued at USD 11.5 billion.
What started out with an initial investment of USD 800 million had reached a valuation of USD18.8 billion in just six years. Hutchison Essar’s subscriber base, too, has risen from 1,50,000 to 28 million. Thus Essar was able to build one of the most valuable telecom companies in the world. Now, Essar is all set to team up with the new JV partner Vodafone to take growth to the next level.
Shipping & Logistics
Essar Shipping diversified and modernised its fleet in the early 1990s. It bought six new double-hull double-bottom Suezmax tankers between 1991 and 1994, a time when no shipping companies were investing in such vessels. The promoters could foresee the demand, a vision that paid rich dividends. Essar became the first Indian company to operate in the waters of the Atlantic. All its Suezmax tankers were approved by oil majors, an endorsement that fetches a premium in freight. Essar had contracts with Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Stat Oil, Shell, etc. and more than 70 percent of its shipping revenues came from international operations.
Even during the downturn in the shipping industry, Essar Shipping registered profits. In this business, too, Essar kept refinancing the debt to reduce finance costs. In 2005, when the vessel rates peaked, Essar sold its five Suezmax tankers at the price at which they were bought in 1994. The funds from the sale of the tankers were used to buy two very large crude carriers (VLCC) of modern vintage and three Cape-size vessels.
Investing in an end-to-end logistics infrastructure
Realising the need to be a niche player in the global transportation industry, Essar drew up a plan to be a complete logistics solution provider. All these activities were consolidated under Essar Shipping and Logistics Limited.
It invested in relevant logistics assets. This included an oil terminal at Vadinar with a capacity to receive 32 MTPA of crude, 14 MTPA product dispatch facilities through sea, crude storage facilities, and product dispatch facilities by road and rail. Similarly, Essar Bulk Terminal was set up to create bulk terminal facilities at Hazira and other ports. At Hazira, a deep draft berth and shipping channel was constructed to enhance the cargo handling capacity by bringing larger vessels alongside the berth.
Essar Logistics took care of the movement of cargo, generated by Essar Steel and Essar Oil, by road. It had a fleet of over 100 vehicles of varying capacities.
Essar also reentered the contract drilling services business after a hiatus of three years. A fleet of 13 onshore rigs and a semi-submersible rig were deployed with clients in India and abroad.
Essar Constructions grew its activities considerably over the years. In addition to outside contracts, it executed all of Essar’s internal projects. All these projects helped transform Essar Constructions into a leading EPC contractor. Essar Constructions executed pipe laying contracts for all the major oil companies in India, and drinking water pipelines in Gujarat, Tamilnadu and Rajasthan. The pipe laying division of the company was certified at ISO 9002. After achieving success and recognition in India, the Company was now poised to venture overseas.
Mr Ruia began his career in the family business in 1965 under the guidance of his father, the late Nand Kishore Ruia. Along with brother Ravi, Shashi Ruia laid the foundation of Essar and spearheaded its business strategy, diversification and growth.
Ravi Ruia belongs to the generation of industrialists who have played a significant role in leading India’s industrial renaissance. His entrepreneurial abilities have enabled the Essar Global portfolio of companies to become one of the leading names in global industry.
Smiti is a self-driven business leader and a true entrepreneur at heart. With over 15 years of experience in diverse fields including media & publishing, corporate communications
Board of Directors – Essar Capital
Director Strategy, M&A
Vikash Saraf is Director (Strategy and M&A), Essar. Prior to joining Essar, Mr Saraf was executive director and CEO of SSKI Corporate Finance Ltd, a boutique investment bank specialising in infrastructure financing and advisory work. Mr. Saraf completed his Bachelor of Commerce from Shri Ram College of Commerce New Delhi and has a Management Degree from the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata.
Director Taxation & Structuring
With 20 years of experience in Strategy and M&A, Dhanpat has been associated with Essar for the past 17 years. In his current role, he led the USD 12.9-billion divestment of Essar Oil Limited to Rosneft
Previously, Dhanpat was a Partner with Ernst & Young, India.
Member, Board of Directors
With 30 years of experience in the fields of taxation, setting up of offshore businesses and consulting, Uday serves as a director on the boards of various companies in Mauritius and as the Chairman of International Fiscal Association’s Mauritius Branch.
Arun Kumar Jain
Operating Partner- Projects
Prior to Essar, Mr Jain was associated with BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd). He has over 17 years’ experience in various leadership roles, having worked with companies, such as Bechtel and Fluor (India), where he was Managing Director for India business.
Group General Counsel
With over 25 years of experience, Sumesh joins Essar from Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan (UK) LLP, London, where he served as the Partner and the Global Head of Corporate. Sumesh specialises in joint ventures, spin-offs and buy-out transactions in India. He is ranked in Chambers (Band 2) and Legal 500 and is widely recognized as an Indian M&A expert who has deep knowledge of the Indian market. He is qualified to practice law in England & Wales and in India. Prior to joining L&S, Sumesh worked as Partner with Jones Day, London, and was the Global Co-Head of India corporate practice at Clifford Chance.
Sumesh is an LL.B from Punjab University, Chandigarh, and is a qualified Chartered Secretary.
Director North America assets
With 35 years of experience in Corporate Finance and Strategy, Madhu heads Essar Global Fund’s investments in North America. Previously, he has worked in senior roles with various portfolio companies of Essar, including as CEO of Essar Steel Minnesota.
Director Metals and Mining
Mr Mehra joined Essar in 1997. He has more than 35 years of experience in the steel industry, having worked with Essar Steel, SAIL and Rashtriya Ispat Nigam. An Udyog Ratan award winner in 1994, he won the Tata Gold Medal for outstanding metallurgical contribution in 1995.
CFO, Mesabi Metallics