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Tatas: The Way Forward After Mistry’s Letter Bomb

 

Just as the market was digesting news about Cyrus Mistry’s sudden ouster as the Chairman of the Tata Group, there is yet another development to deal with. In a set of shocking revealations in his letter to the Tata Sons board, Cyrus Mistry has highlighted the legacy issues and presence of an alternate power clout severely undermining his authority and decision making.

It was pretty clear that Cyrus Mistry, the son of Shapoorji Pallonji Mistry, would not take things lyig down. The revealations in the letter perhaps go way beyond that and in many ways highlight some fundamental issues within India’s one of the oldest private business establishments in the country. In his letter Mistry makes a direct attack on Ratan Tata and blames him of excersing his clout and creating an ‘alternate power center’. He talks of a total ‘lack of corporate governance’ and being turned into a ‘lame duck chairman’. He warned that the group could face impairments close to $18 billion in just five companies.

In one of the examples highlighting the functioning of the group, Mistry says that once the entire board including him were made to wait close to an hour during a course of a meeting ‘in order to obtain instruction from Mr Ratan Tata’. Speaking on Tata’s partnership with Air Asia and Singapore Airlines as well, Mistry highlihts how he was left with no option but to simply toe the Ratan Tata ine without putting in any thought in that direction.

He further reiterated that he could not believe that he was removed for non-performance given the amount of debt laden and troubled assets that he had inherited. Mistry pointed out that the overal group’s net worth had risen to Rs 42,000 crore from Rs 26,000 crore while operating cash flows had grown at a compounded 31% under his reign.

Describing the precarious financial condition of many of the group companies, Mistry added that most aquisitions by the group, apart from Tetley and Jaguar Land Rover, had left a huge debt overhang.

It is needless to mention that the overall impact on the stock market and the Tata stocks in particular has been telling with many brokerages putting up a ‘Cautious’ approach towards the grup stocks. Most experts though feel that it is only a near-term negative and given Tata group’s long standing business expertise, as long as they can find a successor in 6 months, most of the near-term concerns should get smoothened out.

However one concern with the company’s long-term financials remain. Mistry in his letter had said the total writedown of the company’s non-profitable ventures like Tata Motors, Tata Steel Europe, Tata Power, Tata Tele could be close to a whopping Rs 1,18,000 crore vis a vis a group networth of Rs 1,74,000 crore at the moment.

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