Tata Sons board to meet in UK

Cyrus Mistry
Tata Sons, principal investment holding company and promoter of the Rs 6.7-lakh crore Tata group, is going to hold its next board meeting in the United Kingdom. This is the first time the Mumbai-headquartered group will hold its board meeting abroad after Cyrus Mistry took over as the group's chairman.

The move comes at a time when Tata Steel is looking to exit its steel business in the UK.

When contacted on e-mail, a Tata group spokesperson said, "These are matters internal to the company, and we do not comment or offer any guidance on them." Sources, however, say the board meeting is likely to be held in May.

The Tata Sons board has six members - Cyrus Mistry, Ishaat Hussain, Vijay Singh, Nitin Nohria, Ronen Sen and Farida Khambata. For the year ended March 2015, Tata Sons had revenue of Rs 13,100 crore and net profit of Rs 9,062 crore. About 66 per cent of the equity capital of Tata Sons is held by philanthropic trusts endowed by members of the Tata family.

Tata Sons' decision to hold its board meeting abroad is not the first one by an Indian company. Bharti Airtel has held two board meetings abroad, one in Singapore and another in Nairobi, Kenya. Similarly, Hero MotoCorp held a board meeting in Florence, Italy.

Last year, Infosys had also considered holding its board meeting in Palo Alto, California, after Vishal Sikka joined as CEO and MD. However, the plan hasn't still fructified.

It's not just the boards of Indian companies that are meeting aboard, multinationals like Vodafone and PepsiCo have already held board meetings in India. Global FMCG giant Unilever reportedly plans to hold its board meeting in India this year.

Tata Sons' board meeting in the UK is interesting because it comes in the midst of the noise over Tata Steel's plans to exit its UK business. On Thursday, Tata Steel UK's CEO Bimlendra Jha told the British Parliamentary Committee that the company cannot continue to bleed from its loss-making steel units in the country and there is need to find a buyer soon. He also warned the Members of British Parliament that the company's £15 billion pension liability needs to be addressed. The pension fund has more than 130,000 members and a deficit of around £485 million.

Unlike steel, group company Tata Motors's Jaguar Land Rover business is doing well.

For the Tatas, the UK has been an important market. The first leveraged buyout in the country by the group was of tea retailer Tetley, then came steelmaker Corus, and finally, marquee carmaker Jaguar Land Rover.

Dabur, which too has a significant business overseas, is making it a practice to have at least one board meeting outside India every year. Last year, Dabur held its board meeting in Dubai, and the year before it was in Turkey. A senior Dabur official said, overseas board meets help independent directors in a big way as they get to see the operations. He added that the local management is also excited to have the board visiting.

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