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Overseas investments: India makes its presence felt

Tata Steel’s bid for Corus is at the vanguard of corporate India buying cross-border assets.

India Inc is on the march. Last month’s bid by Tata Steel to buy the UK’s Corus Group for £4.3 billion ($8 billion) is the latest and most high-profile example of a company from the subcontinent attempting to gobble up assets in the developed world. While financial commentators have been transfixed by similar moves from Chinese, Middle Eastern and even Russian firms, most have ignored Indian companies’ advances. That will no longer be true after the Tata bid.

Overseas investment by Indian companies has reached such a scale that this year it is outpacing foreign direct investment into the country. So far in 2006 Indian companies have made more than 130 cross-border acquisitions (in emerging and developed markets), totalling nearly $19 billion, according to the Times of India. In contrast, India has received just over $9 billion in FDI flows.

Companies across a number of sectors are buying cross-border assets, including pharmaceuticals, IT, biotech, energy and industrials. Before the Tata Steel bid, perhaps the most eye-catching deals were Dr Reddy’s Laboratories’ $571 million acquisition of German pharmaceuticals company Betapharm in March and Ranbaxy Laboratories’ forays into Italy, Romania and Belgium. This is not including Mittal Steel’s $38 billion deal for Arcelor that was agreed in May.

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