Perspectives from ISB

Over the years, Indian companies and family businesses in particular have been active in making overseas direct investments in the hope of getting access to newer and more extensive markets, and better technologies. While some of these cross-border M&A have been successful, many of these investments have collapsed due to sluggish business conditions.

In a recent development, Tata Steel is said to be in talks with Greybull Capital, an investment group, to sell its European long products business. This division primarily makes railway tracks and steel used in construction. Earlier in October the company had planned to cut almost 1,200 jobs. If the deal goes through the planned job cuts are likely to go ahead, but it could safeguard the 4,700 other jobs and keep open several erstwhile British Steel plants threatened with closure.

Earlier in the month, Havells India, manufacturer of lighting and electrical equipment, announced offloading 80% of its stake in European lighting company Sylvania to Shangai Feilo Acoustics, one of China’s leading lighting companies, for around Rs 1,100 crore. In 2007, Havells had acquired Frankfurt-based Sylvania for around $220 million.

Earlier in the year, Avantha Group Company, Crompton Greaves announces the sale of its Canadian Power Transformer (CPT) business to PTI Holdings Corporation for Canadian $20 million. Crompton Greaves attained CPT as part of the acquisition of the Pauwels group in 2005.

Other examples include, Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), which bought German polyester firm called Trevira for Rs 440 crore in 2004. The company was later sold off after it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. RIL wrote off the entire investment. Similarly, Aditya Birla Group’s Hindalco Industries Ltd had to write down $1.5 billion in 2009 as sluggish demand in North America pulled down profits of its Canada-based aluminium car maker Novelis.