Tata Said to Tap Sovereign Funds on Buying Out Ousted Head
(Bloomberg) -- Ratan Tata, who returned this week to the helm of India’s largest conglomerate, is seeking a partner that could buy out the Tata Sons Ltd. stake held by the family of ousted Chairman Cyrus Mistry, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The Tata family trusts have reached out to sovereign wealth funds and other long-term investors to gauge their interest in purchasing the Mistry family’s stake if it became available, according to the people. The trusts held preliminary talks with potential buyers of the about 18 percent Tata Sons stake as they prepare for a number of possible scenarios, the people said. Mistry’s family doesn’t currently plan to sell its holdings, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.
The family trusts wants to ensure that if Mistry’s family later decides to sell its stake in the Tata Group holding company, the new investor will be a friendly party that shares their long-term vision, according to the people. Tata Sons owns more than $65 billion worth of listed company shares, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
“If the sale happens, a lot of the current uncertainty around Tata group companies will go away,” Paras Bothra, vice president of equity research in Mumbai at Ashika Stock Broking Ltd., said by phone. “It’s not going to happen so easily as Mistry may not give in without a fight.”
Shares of Tata Motors Ltd. rose 2.9 percent to 537 rupees in Mumbai trading on Friday, compared to 0.1 percent rise in benchmark S&P BSE Sensex.
On Monday, Tata Group’s holding company abruptly ousted Mistry as chairman and replaced him with his 78-year-old predecessor Ratan Tata, a scion of the founding family. The rift, which had been brewing for months, signals an end to Mistry’s push to bring more fiscal prudence to the coffee-to-cars conglomerate after a string of global acquisitions.
The Tata trusts, which currently own about 66 percent of Tata Sons, have also been drafting plans for how to raise funds if they were to make an offer for the Mistry family stake themselves, one of the people said. The plans could involve the Tata trusts paring holdings in various operating companies to be able to afford the purchase, according to the person.
Mistry is still considering his next steps and plans to make a decision on his response to the ouster in the next couple of weeks, another person said.
A spokesman for Tata Sons declined to comment and a representative for the Mistry family’s holding company, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, declined to comment.
Tata Sons owns major stakes in Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Asia’s largest provider of software services, and Tata Motors Ltd., the producer of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles. It also controls Indian Hotels Co., the luxury hospitality company that operates New York’s Pierre hotel, as well as steelmaking operations, the Tetley tea brand and a power producer.
The holding company is examining at least two internal candidates to succeed Mistry, people familiar with the matter said. Tata Consultancy Services Chief Executive Officer N. Chandrasekaran and Jaguar Land Rover head Ralf Speth are among those being considered, the people said, asking not to be identified because the process is private. Trent Ltd. Chairman Noel Tata, a member of the founding family and Mistry’s brother-in-law, is also being considered.
Tata Group on Thursday said it ousted Mistry because of a growing “trust deficit” with its biggest shareholders after the former head accused directors of the conglomerate of wrongfully dismissing him in an e-mail Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg. Mistry said he faced constant interference by his predecessor, Ratan Tata, to the point that he was pushed into becoming a "lame duck" chairman, according to the e-mail.
Defending his record, Mistry said he inherited a debt-laden enterprise saddled with losses and singled out Indian Hotels Co., Tata Motors Ltd.’s passenger-vehicle operations, Tata Steel Ltd.’s European business, as well as part of the group’s power unit and its telecommunications subsidiary as "legacy hotspots," according to the e-mail. Despite plowing 1.96 trillion rupees -- more than the net worth of the group -- into those units, they still face challenges and realistically assessing their fair value could result in writing down about 1.18 trillion rupees over time, he wrote.
“It is only on his removal that allegations and misrepresentation of facts are being made about business decisions that the former chairman was party to for over a decade in different capacities,” Tata Sons said in the statement on Thursday. “The tenure of the former chairman was marked by repeated departures from the culture and ethos of the group.”