Even as the tension within the Tata Empire is escalating by the day in the wake of the sudden ouster of Cyrus Mistry from the chairmanship of Tata Sons, its interim Chairman Ratan Tata is currently travelling to Singapore and London on an undisclosed mission.
His absence from the country has meant a missed opportunity for him to meet the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, who is on her first visit to India to ramp up trade and investments after Britain voted to exit the European Union. She is reported to have told media that she had been ‘unable’ to arrange a meeting with senior executives in the Tata group.
Mr. Tata is travelling to London and to Singapore, confirmed a source who met Mr. Tata last week and was aware of his travel plans.
When asked, a Tata Trust official confirmed that Mr. Tata was not in the country. His visit abroad had been planned months ahead and that it could not have been postponed, he added.Telecom troubles
Sources said that Mr. Tata’s Singapore visit may be linked to the group’s lingering troubles with its telecom partner NTT DoCoMo. The Japanese major recently won an arbitration award of $ 1.17 billion against the Tatas over a share buy-back issue relating to Tata Teleservices.
In the meanwhile, a meeting with investors in the group scheduled in the next fortnight had been cancelled. This has added fuel to speculation that Mr. Tata may be travelling to meet investors individually. “I believe Ratan Tata is running against time to settle the issue with DoCoMo, a problem that earned the Tatas and India a bad name,” said Paras Bothra, President - Equities, Ashika Stock Broking. “He may meet global investors in Singapore, given the investors’ meet in Mumbai has been cancelled to avoid media glare.”
“He could also meet Temasek, an investor in Tata Teleservices, in which the Tatas have been facing problems with Japanese partner DoCoMo,” he pointed out.
Temasek subsidiary Aranda Investments owns 6.45 per cent stake in Tata Teleservices, as per the company's annual report for 2015-16. Mr. Tata is in on the advisory board of Temasek Holdings.
“Tata’s Singapore and London tour may been seen as taking global investors into confidence. Tata may also meet the sovereign wealth funds to buy out the Mistrys’ 18.4% stake in Tata Sons, valued at $16 billion,” said an analyst on condition of anonymity.
Significantly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to meet his counterpart Shinzo Abe during his visit to Japan later this week. The unresolved DoCoMo issue has the potential to sour the mood of Japanese investors in India.Mistry chairs meet
Ousted Tata Sons chairman Mr. Mistry continued to chair group companies. On Monday, he chaired a meeting of the distressed telecom arm of the group, Tata Teleservices, at the group headquarters. The privately-held Tata Teleservices board is led by Mr. Mistry, while Srinath Narasimhan is the managing director.
Executive directors include Ishaat Hussain, also on the board of Tata Sons, and DoCoMo representatives - Hidetada Hayashi and Katsuhiko Yamagata. Independent directors include Bharati Rao, Vibha Paul Rishi and Narendra Jhadav, a Rajya Sabha member.
(With PTI inputs)