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Tata said to seek India nod to resolve US$1.2b Docomo spat

Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 12:41

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Tata Sons Ltd, reversing course after ousting Chairman Cyrus Mistry, plans to seek Indian approval to pay US$1.17 billion to estranged partner NTT Docomo Inc as it looks for an amicable solution to their legal tussle, people with knowledge of the matter said.

[MUMBAI] Tata Sons Ltd, reversing course after ousting Chairman Cyrus Mistry, plans to seek Indian approval to pay US$1.17 billion to estranged partner NTT Docomo Inc as it looks for an amicable solution to their legal tussle, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Ratan Tata, who suddenly returned to the helm of India's largest conglomerate last week, has restarted discussions with NTT Docomo on resolving the dispute outside the courts, according to the people. Tata Sons plans to reapply to the country's central bank and finance ministry for permission to pay the arbitration award to NTT Docomo, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

NTT Docomo has been fighting Tata Sons over the right to sell its stake in their Indian wireless venture for at least 50 per cent of the original investment. The Japanese company has asked an Indian court to enforce an order it won in June from the London Court of International Arbitration, which ruled Tata should pay US$1.17 billion to NTT Docomo. The Indian central bank has signaled such a payment would violate foreign-investment rules.

The companies believe Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to resolve the spat, which has been cited as an example of the difficulty of doing business in the country, according to the people. India's government, which previously rejected a Tata Sons request to pay the arbitration award to NTT Docomo, would be willing to consider a new application, one of the people said.  Legal representatives from both companies plan to meet soon to discuss a friendly solution to the dispute, another person said.

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A spokesman for Tata Group said he has no comment, as the matter is subject to legal action. Yousuke Oowada, spokesman for NTT Docomo, and D.S. Malik, a spokesman for the Indian finance ministry, also declined to comment. The Reserve Bank of India didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

NTT Docomo Chief Executive Officer Kazuhiro Yoshizawa said last week the Indian government will need to take action to resolve the disagreement.

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