Vol. 5 Num 921 Fri. December 29, 2006  

Tata pursues expansion path in US

Indian conglomerate Tata may be making waves with a planned mega takeover of top European steelmaker Corus, but its biggest acquisition so far has been in the United States, where it is eyeing even more lucrative deals.

Tata has offered about 5.6 billion pounds (11.1 billion dollars) for Corus as it battles with Brazilian steelmaker CSN, or Companhia Siderurgica Nacional, to seize control of the Anglo-Dutch firm.

The deal is poised to outsize by 11 times Tata's largest corporate takeover abroad so far -- the nearly 700-million-dollar purchase of a 30 percent share of US food and beverage firm Energy Brands Inc in August.

But the Indian company shows no sign of relenting from its expansion path in the United States.

"We see the United States as a major opportunity for us," David Good, Tata's chief representative in North America, told AFP in an interview, citing the hotel, auto parts, telecom and food and beverage sectors as best bets for expansion.

The United States already accounts for nearly 30 percent of the Tata group's annual international turnover of 6.7 billion dollars. The group's total annual revenue is about 22 billion dollars, equivalent to about three percent of India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Tata's 2007 foray into the United States will begin with a January 11 takeover of the Ritz-Carlton Boston hotel from Millennium Partners, for 170 million dollars.

The Taj Boston will be the second US hotel property of Tata's hotel chain Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces.

In 2005, Taj Hotels entered into a lease agreement to operate and manage The Pierre, the luxurious landmark hotel on New York's Fifth Avenue.

Three major US carriers -- Continental, American and Delta -- now operate non-stop flights to India from American cities, while India's Jet Airways is set to begin non-stop operations to the United States from August 2007. Air India is also increasing flights to US destinations.

In the auto parts sector, Tata is considering providing "cost-cutting alternatives" to America's ailing automotive industry, Good said.

Tata already has a joint venture with US auto engineering firm Johnson Controls to produce vehicle seat systems and a tie-up with top US diesel engine maker Cummins Engine Co.

In the Us, India's top trading partner, Tata wants to dispel the image of Indian companies as mere outsourcers, Good said.