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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Royalty Payments by Maruti- importance of stage in Technology Life Cycle

IiAS has brought out a  report on royalty payments by Maruti, IiAS examined Maruti’s royalty payouts in the context of revenues, margins, and research and development (R&D) spends, and concludes that Maruti’s royalty payouts are extortive.Maruti has been paying royalty to Suzuki for its car manufacturing technology since inception. Over the past five years (2010-11 to 2014-15), Maruti’s aggregate payout towards royalty was Rs.118.7 bn while the 5-year profit before tax (PBT) aggregated Rs. 167.7 bn (Table 1). In 2014-15 alone, royalty expenses aggregated 36% of profit before tax and royalty. While royalty to Suzuki per car sold is Rs 21,414/- Maruti's R&D per car produced is only Rs 3600./-This argument of royalty extortion was countered by Financial Express. The paper defended the high royalties on several grounds, primarily the company’s tremendous performance vis-a-vis peers and second capital appreciation and dividends that the stock returned to investors.
Looking beyond shareholders benefits
We have no comments on what is good or bad for majority shareholders or minority shareholders. From a national perspective, we need to ask the question- how does market leader in automobiles behave in China? Do they still pay royalties for petrol/ diesel powered cars? The Chinese planned for the future, invested heavily in batter technology, acquired startups where required and based on the strength in Battery technology, they negotiate as grown ups.  A case in point is all-electric Denza car in China  produced by BYD Auto in a joint venture with Daimler.

Patents and Royalty payments are indicators of technology diffusion. Market leaders are also expected to invest in technology generation. What is required to wean away cash rich market leaders like Maruti from their old parents? 

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