Growth stock, or dividend stock? The real conflict between Cyrus Mistry and Ratan Tata.

Mahesh Murthy
Oct 28, 2016 · 2 min read

As long as the Tata Trusts seek dividends from Tata Group companies, none of the firms can ever be growth stocks. That is the real conflict here.

The Group can either cut loss-making units and reinvest its profits in high-growth strategies which Cyrus Mistry seemed to be doing, and then reward shareholders with higher stock prices... Or it can keep loss-making pet projects alive, strip whatever profits there are to pay dividends to the controlling shareholders (the Tata Trusts) and grow slowly and organically, which is what Ratan Tata wants to do.

As long as Ratan N. Tata was in power in the Group he could pull off both. But once he became just a passive shareholder, he figured he was never going to sell his shares, so he decided he wanted bigger dividends and cash in hand now. Guess he figured he is 79 years old, and he took the short term view.

Thing is, the other major shareholders in the Group, Shapoorji Pallonji never screwed over Tata family management all these decades in the quest for higher dividends. They quietly ran their own businesses, and let the stock price do whatever it did. But once the shoe went on the other foot, and given that Ratan Tata had no other business going (other than the VC fund he is setting up) he decided he wanted cash now, and screw the long term stock price.

That's how I figure it.

Logically, this should see the market cap of Group companies continue to go down over time, as a result. Of course, stock prices rarely follow logic :-)

Mahesh Murthy

Written by

Investor in startups, advisor to brands. Board director, corporate speaker, traveler. Dad to 3 brats.

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