Foreign investors are rediscovering that the road to riches in India runs through powerful local partners
外国投资者再次发现,要在印度赚钱,就需要联手强势的本地伙伴【双语】统统上车 All aboard-书迷号 shumihao.com

Individualists’ lament

单打独斗的哀叹

The dilemma lives on. Last year Ford announced that it would become a minority shareholder in a carmaking joint venture with Mahindra, a large industrial group. Firms that have resisted such tie-ups can struggle. General Motors threw in the towel in 2019, as part of a shift to focus on its American and European operations. Amazon, which has ploughed $6.5bn into its Indian operations, has yet to make money in the country. Walmart’s $16bn purchase in 2018 of a controlling stake in Flipkart, an Indian e-commerce firm, has been similarly hard work. As foreign entities, Amazon and Walmart must contend with a tax on transactions, limits on the size of their inventory and on sales of their own brands, as well as frequent visits from competition authorities.

两难的处境依旧。去年,福特宣布将与印度大型工业集团马恒达(Mahindra)合资成立一家汽车制造公司,成为少数股东。那些拒绝这类合作的公司日子可能不好过。通用汽车在2019年宣布放弃印度市场,转而专注美国和欧洲业务。亚马逊已对其印度业务投入65亿美元,至今未有盈利。沃尔玛在2018年以160亿美元收购了印度电商Flipkart的控股权,之后的发展却同样步履维艰。作为外国实体,亚马逊和沃尔玛必须承担交易税,在库存量和销售自有品牌上受到限制,还要面对反垄断监管机构的频繁调查。

A popular alternative is to operate a listed Indian subsidiary, like Suzuki or a number of big Western corporations, from consumer-goods titans (Unilever, ColgatePalmolive and Nestlé) to industrial giants (Bosch and Siemens). Even that does not guarantee peace of mind, however. After a protracted legal battle with India’s taxman, first over a capital-gains levy related to its $11bn purchase of an Indian mobile business, then over allegedly unpaid fees related to its spectrum rights, Vodafone Idea, India’s third-largest wireless carrier, was ordered by a court to pay $6.8bn in back taxes and fees. In an epic tale of value-destruction, the company now teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, weighing on Vodafone Group, its British corporate parent.

一个常见的替代策略是在印度运营上市子公司,例如日本铃木公司或一些西方大企业——从联合利华、高露洁棕榄和雀巢等消费品巨头,到博世和西门子等工业巨头。但即便这样也不是就高枕无忧了。印度第三大无线运营商“沃达丰Idea”(Vodafone Idea)经历了与印度税务机构旷日持久的官司——先是关于它以110亿美元收购一家印度移动通信公司的资本利得税,然后又是未支付频谱使用费的指控,最后被法院下令补缴68亿美元的税款和费用。经历了如此漫长而悲壮的价值毁灭故事,该公司现在濒临破产边缘,也拖累了英国母公司沃达丰集团(Vodafone Group)。

The contrast with Jio is stark. The Indian champion has managed to snap up mobile spectrum at low prices and extend promotional rates. Given Facebook’s fruitless efforts to gain regulatory approval for a payment feature in its ubiquitous WhatsApp messaging service, the social network may have quite reasonably decided that teaming up with Jio is a better bet.

这与Jio的情况形成了鲜明对比。这家印度领军企业以低价抢得移动频谱并向客户提供优惠资费。Facebook之前设法争取印度监管部门批准在其流行通信服务WhatsApp中添加支付功能,但徒劳无功。这么看来,它很可能是合情合理地得出了结论,认为和Jio合作是更好的押注。

Time will tell if Western investors’ latest dalliances of convenience pay off. The lot of Reliance businesses’ partners has not always been easy. India’s securities regulator has ordered Reliance Industries to compensate minority shareholders in Reliance Petroleum, an affiliate for a series of transactions between the two entities that, the regulator says, disadvantaged the outside investors. The case is pending. Reliance Industries denies any wrongdoing.

西方投资者最近在印度享受的便利能否带来成果,还需要时间验证。信实的合作伙伴们也不总是一路绿灯。印度证券监管机构已下令信实工业向下属的信实石油公司(Reliance Petroleum)的少数股东提供赔偿,称这两家实体之间的一系列交易不利于外部投资者。该案正在审理中。信实工业否认有任何不当行为。

As good as Jio looks on paper, it must still show it has what it takes to run a modern tech behemoth. Ventures such as Jiomart (e-commerce) and JioMoney (finance) have yet to live up to the hype. Until they do, Jio’s nationality may remain its chief attraction.■

Jio尽管表面看来不错,它仍必须证明自己具备一家现代科技巨头所应有的能力。Jiomart(电子商务)和JioMoney(金融)等公司至今的表现还没达到被热烈吹捧的那种程度。在成功证明自己之前,Jio的主要吸引力也许就是国籍了。