Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Should they junk SATYAM management?

The (A)SATYAM saga is getting messier by the day.

The issue has meandered around a lot of flaky bends. First it was the bid to diversify into real estate defying all norms of corporate governance by disregarding the need for shareholder approval before making a strategic business shift. Then came the relevance of independent directors on its Board, that remained passive to promoter Ramalinga Raju’s initiative to buy grossly overvalued family concerns. Almost all of them have since resigned. What followed was yet another rant on Raju’s wiliness – how could he pull off all this while his stake has dwindled close to nothing (all of his 8.6 % in SATYAM was pledged to institutions to raise funds to finance MAYTAS venture that lost almost 80% of its value in the recent real estate meltdown – the institutions have recalled the loans that Raju could not meet and they sold his entire stake in the open market last week as the story broke).

And the latest is, HP training its guns on SATYAM. Gartner studies say IBM leads the global IT services market with around 7.2% of the market, followed by HP-EDS with around 5.3% of the market. HP overtook second-placed Accenture after it acquired EDS earlier this year. The global market for computer services is estimated to be around $748 billion. Even after the EDS acquisition, through which HP gained over 20,000 employees of MphasiS, it trails both IBM and Accenture in terms of offshore strength. IBM has over 73,000 professionals in India and Accenture some 37,000.

And now a fresh debate. Should the existing management be allowed to continue given their track record of delivering consistent business growth? I too believe that a change could be harmful and are willing to give the existing operational team a chance. Had the management clearly realized its mistake and makes amends on the governance front, it’s better to run with the same bunch that ensures customer comfort and affirms durable relationships. It’s not easy to let go off clients GE, Qantas and regain their confidence in the short term for any new management.

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