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JLR steers Tata Motors fortune

After initial hiccups, the British marquee accounted for 67% of revenues and 81% of operating profits of its parent in the last financial year

Read more on:    Jlr | Tata Motors | Jaguar Land Rover
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The timing of the acquisition couldn’t have been worse. Just days after bought for £1.15 billion ( Rs 9,200 crore) four years ago, the world’s financial markets collapsed. While funds became scarce and sales plummeted, Tata Motors posted a huge loss. Even though domestic sales were robust, what brought the company down was the shoddy performance of the British car division.

The roles seem to have been reversed. In fact, if had not paid a dividend of Rs 1,312 crore to Tata Motors in the second quarter of the current financial year, the parent company would have declared a loss -- a point made by chief financial officer C Ramakrishnan while declaring the company’s results.

JLR is now the crown jewel of Tata Motors contributing 67 per cent of revenues and 81 per cent of operating profits in the last financial year.

In the last financial year, the launch of Range Rover Evoque helped the company boost its sales by nearly 30 per cent to 310,000 units. The company reported a 37 per cent rise in its revenue to £ 13.5 billion (Rs 1.10 lakh crore) and 43 per cent jump in its net profit to £ 1.48 billion (Rs 12,062 crore) in FY 2011-12 – more than the acquisition price in 2008.

Obviously, Tata Sons director R K Krishna Kumar is elated. "In the long run, shareholders have benefitted from our daring moves… JLR being one of them," he said.

The company now has a 30-product actions (products with variants) planned for the next three to five years that has the potential to expand the market and boost profit. All aluminum product line ups targeting new customer segments and better geographical penetration is also in the works. Bumpy beginning, then turnaround: The deal hasn't been without hiccups. Analysts’ initial worry about the deal was that the JLR acquisition increased Tata Motors’ debt-equity ratio 3.03 in 2008-09 from 1.1 a year back. Just after taking over, Tata Motors faced its toughest challenge when it incurred about £ 300 million loss in the first year, with JLR sales slumping by a third. This was followed by labour problems and negotiations with the British Government for access to loans and guarantees. However, in August 2009, it raised £469 million through global depository shares. It was the beginning of the turnaround story.

Since then, the company has raised money through several bond issues which has allowed it greater strategic flexibility to invest in modernisation of plant, product development and expansion into emerging markets. The company turned profitable in 2010-11 when it reported £ 1.03 billion

While the current chief executive officer, Ralf Speth, joined the company about two years back, Tata Motors retained most of the management including the heads of marketing, product development and production. They continue to oversee the execution of its product strategy expansion and investments. Crown Jewel:As per analysts’ estimates the investment in the company has trebled and cash flow quadrupled since the acquisition.

The fourth-generation Range Rover Evoque, under a new light weight aluminium architecture platform and assembly line, was launched at the Paris Motor Show in September 2012. The new platform has reduced the vehicle’s weight by over 350 kg which has significant implications on fuel efficiency, power to weight, carbon emission and pricing. It helped JLR offer smaller engines on existing Range Rovers without significant loss of power for the vehicle. New Range Rover base variant now comes with a three-litre engine option vis a vis the 4.4 litre option in the past. It is now priced starting at £ 23,700 (Rs 20,95,401) in London.

"Making vehicle light while maintaining safety and comfort is extremely important for fuel efficiency. This kind of product strategy certainly helps in bringing more customers and helping the brand loyalty grow," said Abdul Majid, leader auto practice at management consultancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers.

The company is now expected to launch other flagship Land Rover brand Range Rover Sport from the new platform in September 2013 followed by Discovery in September 2014. Other Land Rover brand Defender is also expected to eventually move to new platform.

This will help the company strengthen its position in the smaller engine lower priced vehicles segments over the next three to four years where rivals BMW and Daimler have higher exposure. Also two-litre engine options in Jaguar are expected to be launched in the next three to four years which will further accentuate its position in this segment.

Simultaneously, the company is also planning to enter more premium segment with the new F-Type sports car and upcoming 4WD sedans under the Jaguar brand which will help its grow in brand equity. Besides, it is working on new propulsion systems including hybrid and electric vehicles for introduction after 2015.

The company is also planning to boost its sales with greater penetration in markets such as China which is the third largest and one of the fastest growing markets for luxury cars. In 2011-12, China contributed 16 per cent of sales volume while North America and UK respectively had 21 per cent and 18 per cent market share. JLR has now formed a joint venture with Chery Automotive to develop, manufacture and sell vehicles for the Chinese market. Aggressive investment: JLR has now developed operational and financial strength to invest in next phase of growth. The company plans to invest £ 2 billion pound (Rs17,700 crore) annually for the next two to three years, as per the estimates of global brokerage Goldman Sachs. It has hired over 3,000 employees at its three manufacturing sites in the UK over the past 12 months to support new product initiatives. As per the consolidated balance sheet Tata Motors had cash and bank balances of Rs 18,238 crore at the end of March 2012.

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