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    Tata nears iPhone plant takeover to grow Apple supply role

    ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – Tata Group is close to taking over a major plant in southern India in a deal that would give the country its first home-grown iPhone maker.

    The airline-to-software conglomerate has been in talks with the factory’s owner, Wistron, for months, and is looking to complete the purchase by the end of March, according to two sources.

    The two firms discussed various potential tie-ups but talks have now centred on Tata taking a majority of a joint venture, the sources said.

    Tata is set to oversee the main manufacturing operation, with support from Wistron, the sources said, asking not to be named because the plans are not public.

    Apple’s iPhones are mainly assembled by manufacturing giants such as Wistron and Foxconn Technology Group.

    The Indian conglomerate aims to complete a due diligence process by March 31 so that its Tata Electronics arm can formally take over. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

    Tata’s deal would advance India’s efforts to create local contenders to challenge China’s dominance in electronics, which has been jeopardised by political tensions with the United States (US) and COVID-19-related hurdles.

    The Indian conglomerate aims to complete a due diligence process by March 31 so that its Tata Electronics arm can formally take over Wistron’s position in a programme that gives it government incentives, one of the sources said.

    The next cycle of incentives will begin on April 1, which marks the start of India’s financial year.

    The acquisition could value Wistron’s only iPhone manufacturing operation in India at more than USD600 million if the company meets the requirements to receive the expected incentives for the current financial year, one of the sources said.

    A Tata representative declined to comment. Wistron and Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

    Wistron is one of three iPhone manufacturers in India, along with Foxconn and Pegatron.

    It has sought to diversify its business beyond thin-margin iPhone manufacturing into areas such as servers, agreeing to sell its iPhone production business in China to a competitor in 2020.

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