* Ratan Tata to retire by end of 2012
* Tata Sons sets up panel to search for successor
* Panel will search internally, externally and overseas
(Adds analyst comment, possible successor, byline)
By Prashant Mehra and Jui Chakravorty
MUMBAI, Aug 4 The Tata group, India's oldest and
best-known conglomerate, is looking for a successor to its
chairman, Ratan Tata, and is considering people from overseas to
lead a business empire ranging from salt and steel, to cars and
Ratan Tata, who took the company global and made the world's
cheapest car, will retire by the end of 2012. The firm's holding
company has set up a panel that will search for a replacement
within and outside the group within the group, for Tata, who is
also Chief Executive.
With annual revenue of more than $70 billion, and with
357,000 employees worldwide, Tata group's 98 operating companies
derive more than 65 percent of revenue from overseas.
Given that base, the firm, synonymous with India's
industrial growth, could see its first non-Indian chief
No other Indian family run conglomerate has looked overseas
to fill the top spot.
Even though Ratan Tata has said he will look outside India
for his successor, speculation is building that his
half-brother, 53-year-old Noel Tata, may succeed him.
The announcement of the panel comes less than a week after
Noel Tata was appointed to the top spot at Tata International,
which trades in leather, steel and sponge iron.
Some analysts expect Ratan Tata's immediate successor will
be from outside the family. Another name in the frame is Arun
Sarin, former chief executive of British mobile phone giant
"This announcement makes it almost certain that the group
will have a professional running the show. A family member can
then be groomed over the next 10 years," Arun Kejriwal, director
at Mumbai-based research firm KRIS, said.
"The group may have realised that Noel Tata doesn't have the
experience to run such a large group, but he has been
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BIG FIRM, BIG DEALS
The group, founded in 1868, runs India's top vehicle maker,
Tata Motors (TAMO.BO), top software services firm Tata
Consultancy Services (TCS.BO), top private sector power producer
Tata Power and the world's seventh-largest steel maker by
output, Tata Steel (TISC.BO).
In 2007, Tata Steel paid $13 billion for Anglo-Dutch steel
maker Corus, the largest acquisition by an Indian company, which
catapulted the unit to the world's sixth-largest steelmaker spot
at the time.
In 2008, Tata Motors paid $2.3 billion to acquire Jaguar and
Land Rover from Ford Motor Co (F.N), the first time an Indian
automaker bought brands from a U.S. automaker.
While those decisions were praised by many, Tata also drew
criticism for the pricey deals.
The chairman, who is a descendant of the conglomerate's
founder, was the driving force behind the Nano, the world's
cheapest car at 100,000 rupees ($2165), which it unveiled in
Ratan Tata, who was ranked No. 59 among the 2009 Forbes list
of the world's most powerful people, serves on the boards of
Fiat SpA FIA.MIand Alcoa (AA.N) and is an advisor to
Mitsubishi Corporation (8058.T), American International Group
(AIG.N), JP Morgan Chase (JPM.N) and Rolls Royce (RR.L).
(Editing by Tony Munroe and Louise Heavens)