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Investors revolt at Vedanta AGM

September 2011

Investors, NGOs and protesters have rounded on the Indian mining giant Vedanta at the company’s latest AGM.

Vedanta, long-criticized for its environmental and human rights record, was the subject of divestments, shareholder activism and hostile opposition within and outside the meeting.

UK-based asset manager Aviva Investors led the backlash against the board, opposing the proposed remuneration report with another 13% of shareholders, and demanding that pay rises be linked to environmental targets.

The pension fund also opposed the reappointment of several figures on the grounds of nepotism – the Agarwal family owns around two-thirds of the shares and occupy many non-executive positions.  

Netherlands-based pensions manager PGGM Investments pulled out of Vedanta just before the 28 July meeting, joining a long list of investors now shunning the company that includes Northwest & Ethical Investments, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund and the Church of England.

Campaigners picketed the venue, protesting mainly about Vedanta’s plans to expand a bauxite mine on a site held sacred by indigenous people in Orissa, eastern India. Reports of investors being restrained and stopped from distributing literature have emerged from the meeting itself.

Amnesty International published a damning report on Vedanta days before the meeting, criticizing what it sees as the company’s disregard for human rights, its misleading of Orissa villagers, and its attempts to overturn legal decisions prohibiting expansion.

Even the London Mining Network said Vedanta, which is FTSE-listed, has failed to improve its safety record during the past 12 months. The company is said to have polluted rivers and farmland in Goa, while 26 people died in its mines last year.

Vedanta was not available for comment but has said in the past that it is “fully committed to doing business in a responsible manner respecting environment and human rights”. The company made more than $3.5bn (£2.1bn, €2.4bn) in 2010-11, around half from its Indian zinc and copper operations.




Vedanta | Asia | SRI

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