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Tata Group to pay $1.17B in damages to NTT Docomo after RBI’s approval: report

Update (Feb 28): NTT Docomo said in a statement: “Full satisfaction of the award through the Delhi High Court’s judgment will enable DOCOMO to consider reinvestment of an amount in India, under a new cooperative relationship with Tata Sons. DOCOMO believes that such relationship could become a paradigm for India-Japan economic ties.”

Tata Group, which jointly owns that Tata Docomo brand in India through a partnership with Japan’s NTT Docomo has agreed to pay $1.17 billion in damages to NTT Docomo over a legal arbitration case, reports Nikki Asian Review. Japan’s NTT Docomo holds a 26% stake in Tata Docomo in India along with Tata Teleservices (TTL). After the venture started posting continuous losses, TTL was ordered to pay $1.17 billion in damages to NTT by a London court in June last year. The terms of the agreement between both companies provide an option for the acquirer (NTT Docomo) to request a suitable buyer for at least 50% of the acquired price in case venture turns non-profitable.

However, the report added that the Reserve Bank of India is yet to provide an approval for the payment. RBI had earlier blocked Tata from paying out the entire $1.17 billion in a single transaction, citing that it would lead to circumvention of existing foreign exchange regulations. Following this, Tata claimed to have deposited the entire amount with the Delhi Court registrar. NTT, however, went on to move a United States district court in November last year to force Tata to pay the $1.17 billion arbitrary sum. Note that during a hearing on 2nd December 2016, RBI had stepped in and filed itself as a party in the case. But at that time, the court did not immediately approve RBI’s inclusion.

(P.S: We will update the story with more details soon)

A timeline of Tata v/s NTT Docomo

February 2009: The Indian government approves NTT Docomo’s FDI of Rs 138.73 billion into Tata Teleservices to form a joint venture.

March 2009: NTT Docomo buys 26% stake in Tata Teleservices, while other Tata Group companies pick up rest of the stake. Tata Sons owned 40%, NRI entrepreneur C Sivasankaran owned 8%, and Singapore Government’s investment arm Temasek had 9.9% stake.

June 2009: Tata Teleservices and NTT Docomo jointly launches GSM services in India, starting with South India, western and northern regions, under the Tata Docomo brand.

October 2011: Tata Teleservices announces that it will consolidate all organizational assets including spectrum, retail touch-points, digital footprint and consumer franchises across technology platforms under the Tata Docomo brand.

December 2012: NTT Docomo invests another Rs 784 crore into Tata Teleservices in return for fresh equity.

October 2013: Tata Teleservices net worth reportedly dips to an all-time low after it incurred a net loss of Rs 4,858 crore, compared to an operating income of Rs 10,799 crore for the fiscal FY13.

April 2014: Almost 5 years after entering into a partnership with Tata, NTT officially announces that it will be selling its entire stake comprising 1.25 billion shares, which represents about 26.5% stake in Tata Teleservices. The plan was to completely exit by June 2014.

January 2015: NTT Docomo implements a special clause (in the Tata-NTT agreement) which allows it to sell 50% of the acquisition price in case the firm turns non-profitable. NTT moves London Court of International Arbitration to ensure that Tata Sons find a suitable buyer for its 26.5% stake in Tata Teleservices. NTT claimed that it had to file an arbitration request with the London court after Tata Sons failed to fulfill its obligation, despite repeated negotiations on the sale of the 26% stake.

August 2016: NTT Docomo issues statements to press claiming that Tata is ‘not honoring’ payments of $1.17 billion in arbitral order from a London court. Tata, however, denied these allegations and stated that the delay in payments was due to RBI’s foreign exchange regulations.

October 2016: NTT moves United States district court to force Tata Group to pay the $1.17 billion in damages. Tata contests legal suit domestically in Delhi HC and claims to have deposited entire amount with the court’s registrar.

December 2016: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) steps in and files itself as a party in the Tata v/s NTT Docomo case. Court did not immediately approve RBI’s inclusion. Following this, the Delhi HC had issued notices to both Tata and NTT and questioned the role of RBI in the case.

December 2016: Tata Sons mentions in Mumbai HC that it received initial approval from the RBI to pay $1.17 billion in damages to Japan’s NTT DoCoMo but the payment was apparently turned down by the Finance Ministry.

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