Stellantis cuts costs rather than turn defensive as Chinese threat grows

STELLANTIS-OUTLOOK/ (UPDATE 5, PIX):U

Reuters
First Published13 Jun 2024, 11:07 PM IST
Stellantis cuts costs rather than turn defensive as Chinese threat grows
Stellantis cuts costs rather than turn defensive as Chinese threat grows

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Aims at upper end of 25%-30% dividend payout range in 2025

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At least 7.7 bln euros in dividends and buybacks in 2024

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CEO confirms long term commitment to double digit margin

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Co sees 100% zero-emission lineup in Europe by 2030

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Aims for long-term liquidity at 25%-30% of revenue

(Recasts with comments from company presentation)

By Nora Eckert

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 13 (Reuters) - Stellantis will aggressively move to cut costs as competition from Chinese automakers intensifies rather than use a "defensive" strategy that relies on tariffs on Chinese-made imports that European officials are set to institute in that region, its CEO said on Thursday.

Carlos Tavares promised at the No. 4 global automaker's investor day that despite growing pressure from automakers like China's BYD and Chery, Stellantis will remain "among the leaders of this market in terms of profitability".

The company confirmed that its long-term commitment to double-digit profit margins on its adjusted operating income (AOI) was intact despite market headwinds.

Stellantis' investor day came a day after the European Union, one of the Franco-Italian carmaker's largest markets, said it would impose extra duties of up to 38.1% on imported Chinese electric vehicles from July. Europe's action came less than a month after Washington quadrupled duties for Chinese EVs to 100%.

Beijing criticised the EU tariffs on Thursday as protectionist behaviour and said it hoped the European bloc would correct its "wrong practices".

Stellantis shares closed down 2.8%, in line with other European auto stocks due to the uncertainty over China's tariff response.

Tavares, who previously criticised EU tariffs on imported Chinese cars as simply hiding Europe carmakers' lack of competitiveness, said Stellantis would stick to its "asset light" strategy in China, mainly focused on exporting to the country rather than manufacturing there.

"What is clear is that we don't want to be defensive," he said on Thursday, referring to tariffs on Chinese cars.

"Our strategy that remains an asset-light strategy is about making sure that we are ourselves offensive and surfing the wave of the Chinese offensive," he added during a presentation at the investor day in Auburn Hills, Michigan, outside Detroit. "Our asset light strategy in China is much more robust than that of many of our competitors."

As part of its focus on costs, Tavares said synergies from the 2021 merger between Fiat-Chrysler and Peugeot maker PSA that created Stellantis now amount to 8.4 billion euros ($9 billion) a year, more than double than initially targeted.

He added that "at least" two of the company's U.S. plants needed "significant turnaround," but he declined to name them. Officials with the United Auto Workers union, which represents hourly workers in U.S. plants, could not immediately be reached to comment.

Paul Waatti, director of industry analysis at AutoPacific, said Stellantis' leadership focused on aggressive goals, hinging on many factors falling into place.

"Still, the momentum in meeting previously announced initiatives and its ability to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape suggests it remains on course," said Waatti, who attended the presentation.

As part of its strategy, Stellantis has bought a 21% stake in Chinese automaker Leapmotor, and formed a venture that allows the European automaker to sell and manufacture Leapmotor's vehicles outside China. Stellantis leads the JV with a 51% stake.

"There is a very strong appetite for that company to grow overseas," Tavares said, adding Stellantis has the flexibility to allocate Leapmotor car production throughout its wide manufacturing footprint to adapt to tariff decisions.

The automaker on Thursday confirmed its forecast for 2024 and said it would target the upper range of its 25% to 30% dividend payout policy in 2025 versus the 25% paid in recent years. It said it would reward shareholders with at least 7.7 billion euros through dividends and buybacks this year.

($1 = 0.9298 euros) (Reporting by Nora Eckert in Auburn Hills, Giulio Piovaccari in Milan, Gilles Guillaume in Paris; Writing by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Giulia Segreti, Jamie Freed, Susan Fenton and David Evans)

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First Published:13 Jun 2024, 11:07 PM IST
HomeNewsStellantis cuts costs rather than turn defensive as Chinese threat grows

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