Tata's Mistry man: tightening belts as more frugal era begins

Sun May 26, 2013 5:11pm EDT
 
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By Henry Foy

MUMBAI (Reuters) - As Ratan Tata strode the halls of the Geneva Motor Show in March, joking with journalists and chatting with auto industry leaders, his successor at the helm of India's biggest business group stood silently on the sidelines.

Shunning the spotlight since taking charge of the $100 billion Tata group in December, 44-year-old Cyrus Mistry has focused on belt-tightening at a conglomerate left bloated by explosive growth under his predecessor.

"Ratan was much more ... strategic, more over-arching. Mistry's much more focused. The CFOs as well as the business heads are going to find it a much more rigorous exercise," a director who sits on multiple Tata company boards told Reuters.

In early February, at his first Tata Chemicals (TTCH.NS: Quote) board meeting as group chairman, Mistry sat quietly as directors debated efforts to find synergies between interests dotted around the globe, from Wyoming to Gabon. Bringing the discussion to a halt, Mistry politely but firmly outlined that further consolidation was the only way forward.

"He summed up the decision: 'This is what we are doing'," a person present at the meeting told Reuters. "It's quite clear he believes in the process of consolidation."

FAST GROWTH

The last decade of Ratan Tata's tenure saw revenue grow ten-fold to $100 billion in the year ended March 2012, fuelled by acquisitions including an ill-timed $13 billion deal for Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus and a more successful $2.3 billion purchase of luxury car brands Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR).

The group spent billions more on overseas assets like engineering firms, luxury hotels and coffee brands. Tata Chemicals alone bought, invested in or merged with eight companies between 2004 and 2011.   Continued...

 
Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry attends the "Vibrant Gujarat Summit" at Gandhinagar in the western Indian state of Gujarat January 12, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave