Atlas Honda Limited (AHL), Pakistan’s leading motorcycle manufacturer, posted a profit of Rs6.18 billion for the nine months ended Dec 31, 2017, increasing from Rs4.93 billion in the corresponding period last year registering a 25 percent increase. A sharp fall of almost 30 percent in the financing cost was the primary contributor to these positive results. Its sales in the same period stood at Rs56.5 billion versus Rs47 billion in 2016, whereas revenue for the third quarter soared to Rs19.6 billion, up 14 percent compared to Rs17.2 billion in the corresponding period in 2016.
The company reported earnings of Rs3.4 billion in nine months, with earnings per share (EPS) at Rs33, as against Rs2.7 billion (EPS Rs26.22) in the same period in 2016. Bike demand has soared especially in rural areas following an uptick in agricultural growth and in Karachi after the improvement in law and order situation.
AHL assembled and sold 544,826 and 545,018 units in July-December 2017 as compared to 458,590 and 48,695 units in the same period in 2016. Production and sale in 2016-17 hit a new peak of 960,640 and 960,106 as against 810,539 and 811,034 units in 2015-16.
Record-breaking sales of HACPL
Honda Atlas Cars Pakistan Limited (HACPL), an automobile subsidiary of Honda, announced its annual sales for the year 2017. The company has achieved all-time record sales, since its establishment in 1994, of 47,424 units, with an increase of 49 percent from 31,780 units in 2016.
HACPL’s highest sales performance was contributed by popularity of Honda Civic which reached 20,770 units in 2017, from 11,069 units since its launch in 2016.
Cumulatively, more than 31,000 units were sold in this short span; which made Honda Civic the most beloved car considering its unmatched design, features & high performance.
Sales of Honda City also maintained good momentum and gained positive feedback as one of the most popular cars from Honda. Furthermore, Honda BR-V, the first locally produced 7-seater SUV which was introduced in early 2017, marked impressive sales with 7,318 units sold.
Expressing his views on this occasion, Mr. Hironobu Yoshimura, HACPL’s President and CEO said, “2017 was truly a successful year for us. On behalf of HACPL, I would also like to extend my sincerest appreciation and thankfulness to all Honda customers in Pakistan for trusting in our brand and making Honda their vehicle of choice.” “This all-time sales achievement would not have been possible without our valued customers as well as strong support from our business partners and stakeholders. Pakistan Automotive industry will be facing another challenging year with new players in this growing market but HACPL is committed to provide our customers the joy of using quality products that meet their satisfaction and help expand their lives’ potential.”
The company has moved up slowly utilizing only half of its existing capacity but its share in the car market has increased, reached 20 percent in 2014 from 9 percent when it first starting selling cars in the country. The outgoing fiscal and the ongoing one may prove to be the time when Honda starts to outshine the rest. Its stock has tripled in the past year alone.
The market is receptive to the company’s model upgrade of its Civic, and introduction of new model. Combined sales in latest numbers-for 7MFY17-show a 51 percent year-on-year growth in sales while January 2017 saw the highest sales the company has sold in a month to date.
Honda Atlas Cars Pakistan Limited is a joint venture between Honda Motor Company Limited Japan, and the Atlas Group of Companies, Pakistan. The company was incorporated in 1992 and the joint venture agreement was signed the next year. The company rolled out its first assembly line in 1994. The company has expanded its dealership network from six to a network of 21 (3S-sales, service and spare parts), 18 (2S- service and spare parts) and 5 (1S- spare parts) authorized dealerships across the country.
The company is jointly owned by Honda Motor Company and the Shirazi group. As at March 2016, 51 percent of the company’s shares were held by the former while 23 percent were held by Shirazi Capital and 7 percent by Shirazi Investments. Also, 7 percent of the shares are held by the public.
With a capacity to produce 50,000 units (in double-shift), production has remained less than 60 percent of the capacity but soon this could change. The company launched a new civic just last year, as well CBU units of Honda Accord, CRV and the new HR-V, a miniSUV which is a first in Pakistan. City may be up for a facelift soon too. Sales numbers have climbed from 18,000 units in 2007 to almost 26,000 units in 2016 for the year ending March 2016; while revenues have grown from Rs 17 billion to Rs 40 billion; an average growth of 14 percent. Latest numbers are even more encouraging.
Despite capturing about 9 percent of the market in sales, the company was in losses up till 2012 but 2013 saw a jump of revenues from Rs 16.6 billion to Rs 30 billion that catapulted its earnings to Rs 525 million (before tax) from losses.
By 2016, before-tax earnings climbed to Rs 5 billion (Rs 3.5 billion after-tax). The company has also attempted to cut down its indirect expenses such as selling and advertising to help boost earnings.
Costs have also been reduced over the years but still dependent on imports for inputs, the changes in global prices and the yen to dollar movement will continue to affect margins. Even so, improvement is seen as margins have gone up from 1 percent to 15 percent since 2007.
Since 2016, yen was strengthening against the dollar which made imports more expensive for Pakistani automakers. In the first quarter ending June 2016, Honda indeed saw reduced margins due to the effect of the yen-dollar parity. However, it has recovered in subsequent quarters and nine-month financials ending December 2016 showed the company had maintained its margins at 15 percent, and improved earnings by 66 percent, year-on-year.
Public appetite and demand has helped a lot and has also boosted investor confidence in the company, and its stock performance is evidence.
The company’s stock price shot up from Rs 260 in January 2016 to Rs 814 in January 2017-growing by 3 times in the past year. That is some phenomenal growth; and in the competitive auto sector, Honda’s performance is excellent. The company’s stock outperformed the other two as well as the benchmark index during the past year.
Latest Quarter Demand for Honda cars has been higher than ever during this year for the company and in its third quarter report ending December 2016, revenues more than doubled-going from Rs6.87 billion to Rs15.7 billion resulting in a 144 percent growth in the bottom line. This was primarily due to the huge boost the company got from historically high sales.
Between October to December 2015, total civic and sales stood at 4,426 units; while sales were 8,512 units between October to December 2016, an increase of 92 percent year on year. The average monthly car sales also went up. Meanwhile, its competitor Corolla in the same car segment has seen a drop in sales. The quarter saw reduced margins in this quarter as well due to yen appreciation but the combined nine-month financials show the margins stood at the same level as previous year. In fact, profit margins improved from 9 percent to 10 percent in 9 months.
Future of Honda
The car industry in Pakistan has been monopolized by the three foreign brands-Toyota, Suzuki and Honda with local partners and has maintained their hold in the market through government’s protectionist approach. But a lot is going to change since the government introduced a liberal auto policy with incentives for new Greenfield projects and for revitalizing sick units. This has led to several big names expressing interest and at least three confirmed entries.
French carmaker Renault; Korea’s Hyundai and Kia have all signed on with local partners; Ghandhara Nissan, Nishat and Lucky respectively to bring new models into the Pakistani market. This will boost competition in a market that is fast growing with average income levels rising, still has a very low car penetration rate but is hungry for cheaper and more varied vehicles.
Officially, it doesn’t seem Honda is opposed to the auto policy and greater competition. In fact, the company has more outspoken against the burgeoning used cars imports that are allowed into the country through gift schemes-and are significantly cheaper for consumers.
The company in its annual report suggests that there should be a complete ban on used cars imports which would “boost the auto industry by 20 percent and create new jobs”. The company advocates a policy with “existing and new players that would encourage current manufacturers to invest more to expand their production capacities and develop their local infrastructure to enhance competitive advantage”.
Since debating at length over this issue is beyond the scope of this brief recording, it is important to mention that competition is competition. The new auto policy will cinch some of the market share of existing car makers-initially new models will be imported in CBU form but for long-term existence in the sector, these cars will be locally manufactured. While some may assume that it will take years for new entrants to find their footing in an industry where Honda, Toyota and Suzuki have been operating for decades and have localization too, one can’t undermine the effort and investment that would be potentially put in by the local partners (Nishat and Lucky) who are really good at doing business.
Since most of the new brands will likely bring higher end cars (1300cc and above) where Honda’s two variants and Toyota’s Corolla also operate; the competition will be extremely fierce in this segment, and Honda, as we see it, will be in the thick of it.