Here is a complete look at events that made headlines in the auto space during the week.
Annual general meetings (AGM) are always an interesting affair. Shareholders either ask tough and unsettling questions to some of the country’s richest businessmen or use the opportunity to just click a picture, shake hands with them or even recite a poem dedicated to them. But thanks to the coronavirus pandemic most of that action will be missed as all AGMs are to be held virtually. And perhaps that was what the Bajaj Group patriarch Rahul Bajaj missed the most at the recently held AGM of Bajaj Auto. More on this later in the copy but first here is a complete look at events that made headlines in the auto space during the week.
Chandrasekaran warns of uncertainties at JLR
After posting its second consecutive annual loss, in FY20, Tata Motors-controlled Jaguar Land Rover will be further challenged by economic uncertainties this year stressing a greater need to ‘work with partners’, N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons, said in the JLR annual report.
“The new fiscal year will be marked by further uncertainty, reflecting the varying pace of economic recovery in different regions. This will require a continued focus on financial discipline and further efficiencies, building on the considerable success of Jaguar Land Rover’s Charge+ and Accelerate programmes,” said Chandrasekaran.
Demand back to near-normal levels
Direct consumer purchases from showrooms of two-wheelers in July have jumped to 85 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels and are seen improving further in the coming months for India’s third-largest bike maker Bajaj Auto.
While certain urban markets are underperforming because of lockdown-related measures, rural demand has compensated for the shortfall, said a top official of Bajaj Auto talking to analysts over a conference call.
JLR China JV records first loss in five years
The Chinese joint venture of Jaguar Land Rover recorded its first financial loss in five years as operations got crippled by the COVID-19 outbreak. New launches coinciding with the lockdown made the situation worse for the company.
Chery Jaguar Land Rover (CJLR), the 50:50 joint venture that assembles the Evoque, Discovery Sport and the Jaguar XE, reported a net loss of GBP 224 million during FY20, its biggest since starting operations in 2012-13.
Bajaj Auto plans overseas design centres
Bajaj Auto’s international focus will be further bolstered with the opening of two vehicle design centres in Europe and Thailand followed by an assembly plant in Brazil.
The Pune-based company, India’s third-largest two-wheeler maker, will set up its first design centre outside of India in Bangkok followed by one in Europe, a top company official said on July 22
Rahul Bajaj at 13th Bajaj Auto AGM
Wading through some technical glitches on the way Bajaj Auto managed to successfully become the first automotive company in India to hold an annual general meeting (AGM) virtually.
Though only five of its 16 directors were present in person for the AGM held at Akurdi in Pune, perhaps the one factor that left patriarch Rahul Bajaj discontented was the absence of regular shareholders inside the auditorium.
Until 2019 Bajaj Auto shareholders left no seats empty at the multi-seater AGM meeting room situated on the ground floor of the Bajaj Auto corporate building on the old Mumbai-Pune highway. While many were from Pune itself, several travelled from Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Delhi.
Known to speak his mind freely, the 82-year-old Bajaj has faced repeated health issues in the past few years. Despite this, he was seen mingling with the shareholders post the AGM every year exchanging smiles and pleasantries. This made it one of the rare times in a year when Bajaj personally met the shareholders.
But with the orders from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, this rather limited private affair was missing at this year’s Bajaj Auto AGM when the senior Bajaj had to follow directives from the moderator to conduct the AGM virtually.
“I miss today the regular and real AGM where hundreds of shareholders are in this room and outside the room. When I see them face to face I recognize them, some are fresh faces. That gives us a great feeling of happiness and satisfaction which unfortunately just does not come from this virtual meeting”, Rahul Bajaj, chairman, Bajaj Auto said at the 13th AGM.
From July 31, Rahul Bajaj will step down as chairman of Bajaj Finance, the most valued Bajaj Group firm having a market cap of Rs 1.95 lakh crore, more than twice that of Bajaj Auto. His younger son Sajiv will take over the reins. Rahul had relinquished the chairman’s position from Bajaj Finserv and Bajaj Holdings in 2019.“The chairman has come a full circle. He started at Bajaj Auto, before joining other companies like Bajaj Finance, Bajaj Finserv and Bajaj Holdings. Now he is back at Bajaj Auto, his origin, and we are as excited about this as you are,” said Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto and the elder son of Rahul.