Jaguar, Land Rover win would be another coup for Tata

MUMBAI — If India’s Tata Group drives off with US auto giant Ford’s iconic British brands Jaguar and Land Rover, it would be another feather in its cap after buying European steelmaker Corus earlier this year.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sat 22 Dec 2007, 8:44 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 9:41 PM

British media reports say loss-making Ford could announce as early as Friday that the Tatas, reported to have bid around $2 billion, had been named the top choice for buying the storied luxury carmakers.

It would be the year-end icing on the cake for India’s biggest private sector group, which bought Corus for $13.7 billion in January, and also another sign that cash-flush corporate India’s foreign acquisition drive has shifted into high gear.

Tata’s chief executive, 69-year-old Ratan Tata, credited with transforming a sprawling, unfocused tea-to-trucks conglomerate into a global player, had long promised the group would “spread its wings far beyond India.”

If the family-run conglomerate gets Jaguar and Land Rover, it will be in the unusual position of manufacturing two of the world’s most prestigious cars as well as one of the world’s cheapest.

Tata plans to unveil in January its “people’s car” or one lakh car — one lakh representing Rs100,000 or $2,500 — aimed at getting more of India’s working poor off their motorbikes and into cars.

Tata officials in New Delhi had no comment on Thursday on an article in Britain’s Birmingham Post quoting an unnamed source at Land Rover as saying: “It is definitely Tata.”

“We’re keeping out fingers crossed,” said an official, who did not wish to be named.

The Birmingham Post quoted union leader Des Quinn as saying the Tata bid “is in the best interest of our members.”

“They come from a manufacturing background, and the experience of other people they have taken over has been good. They are cash-rich and they can afford the price, as well as invest in the future,” Quinn was quoted as saying.

Tata Motors’ net profit rose by 21 per cent in the first half of this fiscal year to Rs9.9 billion ($250 million). Tata launched its first passenger car in 1991, before which it was best known for its trucks.

“The deal is prestigious and the (new) brands could emerge as strong revenue earners over a long-term of five to six years,” said Mahantesh Sabarad, auto analyst at Mumbai brokerage Prabhudas Lilladher.

“We do not see a loss in brand value for the luxury cars if they move to the Tatas,” he added, a reference to complaints by US car dealers, who felt Indian owners would be a turnoff for upscale buyers.

An announcement in favour of Tata would mean the Indian group had beaten off competition from rival Indian firm Mahindra and Mahindra and private equity group One Equity Partners.

London’s The Times newspaper quoted Ratan Tata, member of one of India’s blue-blooded business families, as saying he saw no conflict of interest in having a diverse portfolio starting from the ”people’s car” to Jaguar and Land Rover.

“How a company manages products in different sectors is the key. Toyota created Lexus, Nissan has Infiniti. No one is saying “how can BMW handle the Mini?’ But they’ve made a huge success of it. So why is it impossible?” he asked.

The Tata Group has 98 firms and began emerging as a force in the world marketplace in 2000 when it bought Tetley Tea, Britain’s top tea-bag brand.

By the time Ratan Tata retires in six years, analysts reckon that international revenues could make up at least 50 per cent of group revenues.

The Tata Group, founded in 1868, is a colossus at home, with annual revenues of 29 billion dollars, the equivalent of 3.2 per cent of India’s GDP, and is the biggest private employer, with 289,500 people on its payroll.

On Thursday it was named the world’s third most accountable and transparent company by Britain’s One World Trust, an independent research group. General Electric and GlaxoSmithKline were rated numbers one and two.

The Tata Group’s founder, Jamsetji Tata, was a strong philanthropist.

He accommodated his steel workers in a model company town in eastern India and his employees worked just eight-hour days -- unheard of in that era.

“He believed the primary purpose of an industrial organisation is to improve the quality of life of the community,” declares the company website, a spirit company officials insist endures to this day.

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