Moneycontrol
May 16, 2013 08:52 PM IST | Source: CNBC-TV18

Bet big on July Discover launches, exports: Rajiv Bajaj

Rajiv Bajaj, MD, Bajaj Auto in an interview to CNBC-TV18, says that the company is betting big on the launch of six versions of the Discover in July plans to focus on exports to boost revenues and increase market share.

Bajaj Auto plans to launch six new versions of the Discover starting July in a bid to boost market share, and expects to maintain EBITDA margins at 20 percent going forward. Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Rajiv Bajaj, MD, Bajaj Auto is optimistic of maintaining double-digit growth in exports. Exports constitute 33 percent of total revenues for the company.

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"We will continue to gain market share at the retail level and out of the six Discover launches, only two will be in the high-end market. I expect 10-12 percent growth for 3-wheelers going forward and hope the auto sector's performance improves."

Below is the edited transcript of the interview on CNBC-TV18

Q: What is your profit and sales for Q4?

A: For Q4, the total revenues were about Rs 5,000 crore, just wee bit more as compared to the same quarter previous year. Profit after tax (PAT) was at Rs 766 crore, again flat year-on-year.

In terms of the number of vehicles sold, it is marginally lower - just under million vehicles. Overall it has been an unremarkable quarter, bringing to an end an unremarkable year. Even for the year as a whole, the earnings were pretty flat.

Q: Can you tell us what exactly your revenues were for the quarter?

A: Total revenue is Rs 4,990 crore and that includes, in our terminology, operating and non-operating other income of Rs 243 crore. So, perhaps the street’s estimate is closer to the revenues we have declared minus this amount.

Q: What were your operating margins were?

A: The EBITDA margins were at 19.2 percent compared to 20.6 percent in Q4 of the previous year, down by almost 150 bps.

Q: Did you sell around 9.8 lakh units?

A: Yes, to be precise we sold 9,81,000 vehicles.

Q: What about the quarter in progress and the quarter ahead? What is your view on sales and competition?

A: It is very clear that nothing will change in the short-term. The month of April has been no different from all of last year and I don't really expect any change going forward.

I think everything else is a positive, at least for Bajaj Auto. We are very enthusiastic about the new products that are to be launched- we have six new Discovers for launch starting in July. We are going to replace our entire portfolio of three-wheelers with a completely new range.

The rupee at Rs 54 to the dollar from April 1, is almost an 8-9 percent improvement on the export turnover which is about Rs 7,000 crore, and that is a big positive.

Thankfully, commodities are also very stable. Uncertainty remains to be the only problem in both the domestic and export markets.

Q: Do you expect margins for FY14 to be in this rage of 19.2-19.6 percent?

A: I expect our EBITDA margins, which have typically been around 20 percent, to remain in that range simply because fixed cost as a percentage of sales is only about 6 percent. Since ours is a completely variable structure, when volumes jump up we don't have any huge gain in terms of economies of scale.

However the reverse is also true that if growth is flat, it doesn’t have any adverse impact as far as our bottom-line is concerned. However, slow growth in the market is a concern.

Q: The contribution of exports to total revenues has gone up. Are you all planning to boost your exports?

A: Exports constitute about 33 percent of total sales and revenue. This year, from a forex point of view, we will realize better rupee value for exports because almost all our exports are in dollars.

To that extent, we have budgeted for a double-digit increase in export-revenues. I hope that this year we will be able to sell more units in the domestic market with our focus on the Discover segment.

Q: With increased competition, it has been estimated that all major participants in the two-wheeler segment will lose 1 percent of their market share. Can you confirm this estimate and at what level will your loss in market stabilise?

A: You are absolutely right. In terms of domestic motorcycle market share, we ended the year with a 24.5-percent share compared to 25.5 percent the year before. But I hasten to add that the change is in the billing market share. At the retail level, we believe we have not lost market share and may have gained a fraction. However, I would not say that we have gained significant market share either. I think market share has remained flat.

Let me put it like this. I think people who wanted to buy either a Hero or a Honda were always buying it from Hero Honda. The people that came to Bajaj, came to us because we offered something different, good, bad or ugly and I think those people continue to come to us. There are some that maybe gravitating from Hero to Honda now that the two entities are different but that is not going to directly benefit us. That is going to the benefit of Honda if at all. Our strategy is one of differentiation. We have to make an impact to the new Discovers that we will launch.

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Q: Will your new launches be up the value-scale and therefore result in higher realisations or will they mirror your current breakup?

A: In fact, it is for the first time since July 2009 and I refer to this date because that is when we decided to go with a two brand strategy of Discover and Pulsar in the market place. So it is for the first time in the last four years that we will have a year when we will actually be placing more emphasis on the mass market, by which I mean motorcycle-segment priced at an ex-showroom price of Rs 40,000- Rs 50,000.

So of the Discovers that we are launching, only two are going to be in the more up-market segment, four of them will be in the Rs 40,000-to-Rs 50,000 zone and that is where we are hoping that we can pick up a lot of market share. It has taken us time to do this because we did not want to do this at the expense of margins. So what is important to us is to be able to price vehicles in this segment and at the same time grow and maintain the 20 percent EBITDA that is very dear to us.

Q: Any kind of guidance on the kind of volumes in the domestic as well as in the export market for FY14?

A: Let me start with exports because it is a little easier to explain. We are looking at about 10-12 percent growth in number of units, a little more in terms of realisation simply because of the forex situation. As far as the domestic market is concerned, we are confident of a 10-12 percent growth on three-wheelers as we have already demonstrated that last year when the industry was not doing as well and we have gained market share specifically in the diesel segment.

As far as motorcycles are concerned, the situation is different. We plan to reverse the loss in market share. In April, volumes and market share were stable and in May there is a 20-percent improvement in retail sales year-on-year because the marriage season is in full swing. So I expect May will be good for everyone. But I fear growth will slip in June. So regarding the first quarter, I really don't see much of a change in terms of year-on-year earnings.

Q: Can you shed some light on the performance of your three-wheeler arm? The volume mix had increased a bit from 11.8 percent to 12.4 percent as a part of total volume. Will that remain steady and do you have any plans for the segment?

A: We are doing well in the domestic market and continue to gain share. Particularly in the growing diesel segment, our share is well over 30 percent now and it continues to increase. With the new products that we plan to launching, this will only get better.

Also this year we will not face the problem caused by the cessation of three-wheeler sales in Sri Lanka in the months of May, June and July 2012. The problem has been resolved and we hope it will not recur and bite us again.  The situation in Egypt also seems to be stabilising.

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So from this export perspective, I expect our three-wheelers to perform better this year. I am positive on three-wheelers as far as the domestic and export market is concerned. I recently heard that the Delhi government has decided to request the Supreme Court to do away with the ban on the total number of three-wheelers in Delhi.

That is good news because Delhi is a big market for three-wheelers. If this kind of initiative is seen in some of the other major markets, it will only add to the growth in three-wheelers.

Q: You sounded a bit shaky about the motorcycle segment. How much market share did you lose in FY13 and will FY14 be worse than FY13?

A: Our export market share in motorcycles slipped from 32 percent to 31 percent and in the domestic market, our market share fell from 25.5 percent to 24.5 percent. The one-percent loss, to the best of my judgement and knowledge, is to do just with the stock in the dealerships of the respective manufacturers. But it our job to increase our market share from this level.

On the export front, we are positive because we have continued to grow although growth last year was somewhat tepid compared to the years before. But I think many of those issues have sorted themselves out. So, on the export front, we should start seeing the double digit growth that we budgeted for.

On the domestic front, the first of the new Discovers will be launched at the end of June or beginning of July and then virtually every six-to-eight weeks, there will be a new product at a new price-point in the market place. We have to hope that we have planned the portfolio effectively to probably result in some gain in market share every quarter.

Q: What is the status of the inventory and discounts?

A: As far as Bajaj Auto is concerned, there is no discount either direct or indirect through financing or promotion. That is why we have been able to maintain margins and that is more or less true of the competition as well. We have 4-5 weeks of inventory.

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