How far will the Jaguar leap? Corporate Turnaround of JLR

Tata Motor’s acquisition of Jaguar Land Rover is one of the most discussed cases of a successful outbound acquisition by an Indian company. 

Since the past few years, Jaguar Land Rover Plc (JLR), the UK based subsidiary of Tata Motors has consistently been the major driving force behind the revenue and profits for the company and has helped the company to plug losses in the domestic business. The trend continues, with Tata Motors’ profit having tripled in this quarter of 2014, on strong Jaguar, Land Rover sales.

Such splendid performance of the acquired company was almost unimaginable for many in 2008.

JLR Corporate Turnaround

Flashback to June 2008. Tata Motors had acquired two iconic British brands – Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) from the US-based Ford Motors for US$ 2.3 billion. This was the biggest buy-out in the automobile space by an Indian company. Ford Motors Company (Ford) had acquired Jaguar from British Leyland Limited in 1989 for US$ 5 billion. After operating it for losses for few years, in June 2007, Ford had decided to divest the brands as a part of its restructuring strategy. Tata Motors was interested in acquiring JLR as it would reduce the company’s dependence on the Indian market and facilitate Tata Motor’s entry into the luxury segment. In addition to the US$ 2.3 billion it had spent on the acquisition, Tata Motors had to incur a huge capital expenditure as it planned to invest another US$ 1 billion in JLR.

JLR being a British powerhouse brand, people questioned how Britain could allow Jaguar to be sold first to Ford, and then to Tata. The deal was not very well perceived due to the Indian ownership and the fears of outsourcing of jobs, technology and the brand to India. Analysts feared that Tata had made a mistake. Morgan Stanley reported that JLR’s acquisition appeared negative for Tata Motors as it had increased the earnings volatility during the difficult economic conditions in the key markets of JLR including the US and Europe.

In 2012. JLR, a business that was battling for survival three years ago, reported record annual sales and a 35% increase in pre-tax profits to £1.5bn due to surging demand in China.


How did Tata Motors manage to achieve such a remarkable turnaround for JLR?

To begin with, cash management and cost management were identified as the key priorities. A three-tier model was developed with the help of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. First, a short-term goal to manage liquidity with the assistance of KPMG was put in place. A cash management system was built to manage cash on an hour to hour basis. Then came a mid-term target to contain costs at various levels and the formation of 10-11 cross-functional teams. A number of management changes, including new heads at JLR, were made and the workforce was reduced. Finally, a long-term goal that runs until 2014 was drawn up, focusing on new models and refreshing the existing ones.

Tata had also acquired the IP and skills from JLR that enabled them to locate a substantial part of production and supply chain in South Asia. This helped in bringing down the cost of production. Tata Motors divested stakes in group companies to raise cash. The proceeds were channelled for innovation and product development. A separate IT ecosystem was set up for JLR. JLR was always considered to be top end high end luxury brand but Tata added new products like Evoque which made the brand image a bit soft and targeted towards urban people, while still keeping the luxury branding intact. This brand image change by Tata worked in favour of JLR, helping it not only to survive but also to become an international powerhouse once again.

Tata’s footprints in South East Asia helped JLR to diversify its geographic dependence from US and Western Europe. After the downturn of 2008-09, JLR made its first operating profit in the quarter ending September, 2009. The profits continued in 2010, with an increase in Ebitda of 50% q-o-q. In 2011, JLR posted record annual profits of more than £1bn.

Given Tata Motor’s annual investment plans of £1.5 billion for JLR to impart the brand with a sustainable competitive advantage, analysts and investors are enthused to see how far Tata Motors will make the Jaguar leap.

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