News: Tata, Siemens, SK, Alibaba

Flags at Siemens shareholder meeting. Image: Siemens. 

Flags at Siemens shareholder meeting. Image: Siemens. 

Tata buys into Xiaomi

Ratan Tata, head of the Indian Tata conglomerate, has bought a stake in Xiaomi, China’s biggest smartphone-maker. Xiaomi, which creates Apple-like levels of devotion in fans, recently moved into the Indian market, where it sold 100,000 phones in 4.2 seconds during a flash sale. Xiaomi said that Tata would be a “mentor”, but did not confirm whether there would be any deeper relationship.

Job-losses hurt Siemens

Siemens, the giant 168-year-old German manufacturing conglomerate which is 25%-owned by the descendants of its founder Werner von Siemens, is to make 4,500 people redundant, half in Germany. Results have been weaker than expected and analysts predict Siemens will fail to hit targets. With 6% of the company the family is the biggest shareholder, and continuing poor results and job-losses could re-start worries over the business’s image. This concerns the family deeply and in 2013 triggered a desire to have more influence over the business.

Pirate mission

Remember Heather Cho, the South Korean “nutgate” heiress? Well, not all the members of chaebol families are so selfish. The daughter of the chairman of SK Group, South Korea's third biggest conglomerate, just volunteered to join the navy and will go on an anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia. Chey Min-jung will spend six months working in combat intelligence on the 4,400-tonne KDX-II destroyer from June.

Alibaba family office

Joseph Tsai, executive vice chairman of Chinese online shopping giant Alibaba, is creating a multi-family office for him and other founding executives from the firm. Tsai will fold his current family office into the new one, which will be run by two Hong Kong-based European bankers. A spokesman for Tsai said that the new fund will run on  an “endowment model that focuses on generating long-term steady returns for a few select families”. Tsai is said to be worth over $5 billion.

Politics vs business

Governments are becoming increasingly wary of the potential conflicts of interests for officials also running family businesses, it seems. Shanghai has banned the family members of senior politicians from running businesses in the city. Meanwhile in India Congress is putting pressure on the chief minister of Punjab to shut down his family’s network of businesses, which includes a private jet firm, a bus company and a brewery, among others. The shape of things to come?