Friend-turned-foe of the Tatas, Nusli Wadia, on Thursday continued his tirade against the group while staying away from the extraordinary general meeting of Tata Motors convened to remove him as an independent director.
Friend-turned-foe of the Tatas, Nusli Wadia, on Thursday continued his tirade against the group while staying away from the extraordinary general meeting of Tata Motors convened to remove him as an independent director. As he did with the EGM of Tata Steel a day back, Wadia’s statement was read out to the shareholders, where he alleged mismanagement of the company while sticking to his line that the Tata Group is stage-managing all such meetings by crushing the voices of dissent.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, the National Company Law Tribunal, which Cyrus Mistry had moved on Tuesday alleging bad practises, oppression and mismanagement on the part of Tata Sons, refused to provide any interim relief to him. A division bench of NCLT comprising B S V Prasad Kumar (member-judicial) and V Nallasenapathy (member-technical) instead decided to hear his petition on January 31 and February 1, 2017.
Asking the parties to file their replies, the bench made it clear that instead of hearing the parties on the point of interim relief, it would hear the matter expeditiously and give an order in about a month. Tata Sons in a statement later said that it believes that the petition is not maintainable in law and the court will hear it on this issue at the outset at the next hearing.
Though the results of Tata Motors’ EGM were not declared by the exchanges till the time of going to the press, going by the trend of voting at Tata Steel’s EGM, removal of Wadia seems to be a foregone conclusion. A section of the shareholders resented the accusations against the company by Wadia and called on him to prove them. Speaking on behalf of Tata Sons, Ishaat Hussain rubbished the charges levelled by Wadia stating that JRD Tata had passed away much before Nuslia Wadia became an independent director of the company and hence his claims that he was invited on the board by JRD was false. It was Ratan Tata who had invited Wadia, Hussain said.
In his written statement, which was read out by Tata Motors’ company secretary at the beginning of the meeting, Wadia highlighted the company’s ‘ill-conceived’ investment in Nano that has caused it thousands of crores of losses. He also alleged that the debt-ridden Tata Motors continuing to hold a stake in Tata Sons is just a ploy by the Tatas to shore up their voting rights in it. As of March, 2016, Tata Motors had a 3.06% stake in Tata Sons.
Downplaying Wadia’s allegations, Hussain said Nano’s failure can’t be blamed on any individual and the opinion was significantly in favour of it when it was envisaged. He added that Nano’s production facilities are now being used to manufacture models like Tiago and most other assets related to it have already been written off. Explaining the cross-holdings in Tata Group companies, Hussain said such holdings were a norm in pre-liberalisation era and it was actually Tata Steel which had promoted Tata Motors. “I can assure you that the board of Tata Sons will engage in how to unravel the cross holdings,” Hussain said.
Thursday’s EGM — the fourth in less than 10 days by a Tata Group company — seemed to have taken a toll on shareholders with a markedly lower turnout and hardly any voice of dissent. However, there was no dearth of advice for Ratan Tata. “I would like to say that four months is too short a period for Mr Tata as interim chairman. He should take charge for at least one year in this position, so that he can appoint an able replacement,” Ashalata Maheshwari, a regular feature in Tata Group general meetings, said.
On Friday, shareholders of Tata Chemicals will vote on the removal of Wadia from the company’s board.