Marc Reeves, Editor, Birmingham Post, Mumbai, 25th March, 2009
The Indian boss of Jaguar Land Rover has broken his silence to launch an unprecedented attack on the UK Government’s tardy response to appeals for loans to help the West Midland car maker survive the recession and credit squeeze.
In an exclusive interview with the Birmingham Post, Ratan Tata spoke of his frustration and bewilderment at the Government’s failure so far to accede to requests from JLR and other automotive companies to replace missing bank finance with commercial loans or loan guarantees.
Speaking in his office in Mumbai, Mr Tata said the UK Government didn’t seem to understand what it was his company was asking for. He spoke of his “bewilderment” at the Government’s attitude towards the automotive industry as well as his frustration that aid had so far not materialised.
Mr Tata also responded directly to critics who accuse him of running to the UK government for help rather than use the resources of the Tata empire to keep the luxury car maker going through the recession. “Since acquisition we’ve either loaned or converted to equity to Jaguar Land Rover $1 billion over and above the acquisition,” he said.
“If the British Government’s view is that we liquidate the rest of Tata to resurrect JLR, I think that’s unrealistic. If people say that we bought JLR and it’s up to us to fix it, I say where do we go for the fix? There is no credit available from the banks. It’s simply not there.”
Since acquisition we’ve either loaned or converted to equity to Jaguar Land Rover $1 billion over and above the acquisition.” Ratan Tata
Mr Tata stressed that JLR was not asking for a bailout, but access to finance on commercial terms, secured by a Government facility. Despite that, he said: “For some reason, our interaction with the Government and members of the government seem to come back to ‘Tata is seeking a bailout’.
“JLR is facing a global turndown in demand and that’s not something we’re able to fix from here. This is the first time we have ever sought Government intervention or assistance in our lives, so it would be unfair to say that ‘Tata should fix it’. We have in fact done a great deal to try and fix it, but we just don’t know where to turn.”
West Midlands MEP Malcolm Harbour, a former car industry executive, said Mr Tata’s remarks confirmed criticisms levelled against the Government by opposition politicians and other company executives. “I just hope the Government takes note of what Mr Tata is saying because he is a major player in the world automotive business,” he added.
Someone familiar with Indian business protocols said it was “highly unusual” for an industrialist of Mr Tata’s rank to speak out against another country’s government. “It seems to be sheer frustration at the Government’s failure to fully understand manufacturing,” the source said.
[Source: Birmingham Post]
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