Home / Companies / News /  C. Sivasankaran looks to settle DoCoMo issue with Tata Sons

C. Sivasankaran, the Seychelles-based businessman who has been at loggerheads with Tata Sons Ltd regarding his investment in Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL), is exploring an amicable settlement with the Tata group holding company, he said in an interview.

The group has been trying to get Sivasankaran to pay his share of the DoCoMo arbitration award, while Sivasankaran has maintained that Tata Sons needs to compensate him for the losses he suffered because of his investment in the telecom firm. He said Tata Sons can either pay him or the banks that he has pledged his TTSL shares.

The Tatas have a “moral, legal and an ethical obligation to compensate me as a minority shareholder", said Sivasankaran. He didn’t elaborate on what this amicable settlement would entail or whether he will withdraw the legal notice he had sent Tata Sons on 19 September.

“I have no intention of acting against the Tata group," he said. “With Chandra (N. Chandrasekaran, who has been named Tata Sons chairman) on board, I am confident of settling the issues amicably. He will be a good chairman."

“Regretting" his investment in TTSL, Sivasankaran said, Tata Sons should at least compensate the lenders to whom he has pledged the shares. These include IL&FS, Life Insurance Corp. of India, Union Bank of India Ltd, Central Bank of India Ltd and State Bank of India Ltd. These are all creditors to whom he has pledged shares amounting to Rs1,400 crore.

The bankers accepted shares not because of the guarantee given by the Siva group but because of the Tata group, said Sivasankaran. If they are keen to settle the issue with DoCoMo, they should be equally keen on doing the same with banks, he said.

Sivasankaran said he will not pay his share of the DoCoMo arbitration award since it is illegal under Reserve Bank of India rules.

In 2008, DoCoMo bought shares amounting to 26% of Tata Teleservices’s equity, a part of it from existing shareholders, including Siva group. The shareholders’ agreement it signed with the Tatas had a put option. That gave the Japanese firm the right to sell its stake at “fair value", or half the acquisition price, whichever is higher. At that time, existing shareholders agreed to bear any claims or amounts payable to DoCoMo should such an event arise in proportion to the stake they sold.

By the time DoCoMo wanted to exit in 2014, RBI had prohibited exit at the price it wanted, leading to an arbitration. Last year, a London arbitration court ordered Tata Sons to pay $1.17 billion to DoCoMo for breach of contract, an amount which the Tatas have deposited in an escrow account pending a ruling by the Delhi high court. It is a portion of this award, ab­out Rs694 crore, the Tatas are trying to get Siva group to pay.

A Tata Sons spokesperson said the company is doing what it should do to get dues from Siva group.

Sivasankaran had earlier alleged that ousted Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry was responsible for increasing losses at TTSL.

On 19 September, Sivasankaran sent a legal notice to Tata Sons alleging mismanagement and oppression at TTSL. The notice said that earlier in 2011 too, Siva group wanted to sell TTSL shares to the Tata group asking them to find a buyer, but they couldn’t match the valuation he asked for.

Interestingly, minority shareholders of Tata Sons, Cyrus Investments Pvt. Ltd and Sterling Investments Pvt. Ltd, in their National Company Law Tribunal suit have alleged that dealings with Sivasankaran resulted in Tata Sons and TTSL incurring huge losses and liabilities. It added that Mistry was removed as chairman because he was trying to legally move against Sivasankaran.

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