The Korea Herald


Mahindra sees India’s 1st cult brand aided by Ssangyong

By 김연세

Published : July 31, 2011 - 19:18

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The Actyon of Ssangyong Motor Co. The Actyon of Ssangyong Motor Co.
At Ssangyong Motor Co., South Korea’s third-largest maker of sport utility vehicles, just about everything that could go wrong did in the past two decades. The company switched owners four times, faced bankruptcy and suffered one of the most violent strikes in modern Korean history in 2009.

Workers in that clash took control of a plant for almost three months, using iron pipes and Molotov cocktails to battle air and land police commandos armed with tear gas and water cannons.

Into this mess, in November 2010, stepped Anand Mahindra, a scion of one of India’s richest families, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its September issue. His flagship company, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., bought 70 percent of Ssangyong for $378 million. M&M is part of Mumbai-based Mahindra Group, a conglomerate with 110 subsidiaries in banking, finance, information technology, real estate and resorts.

Mahindra, the company’s vice chairman and managing director, says he’s confident that M&M can turn the Korean carmaker’s run of bad fortune around. He says he’ll invest in Ssangyong Motor’s people and products.

“I see our relationship with Ssangyong as an inflection point which is going to contribute greatly to the future success of the Mahindra Group,” Mahindra says. The takeover of Ssangyong is part of Mahindra’s drive to make his company a world-known name in SUVs.

After acquiring stakes in three tractor makers in the past six years, Mahindra & Mahindra surpassed Moline, Illinois-based Deere & Co. as the world’s largest tractor maker by sales volume in the year ended on March 31, 2010, according to the Indian company.

“We want to be India’s first global cult brand,” Mahindra says.

The purchase reflects the growing economic might of India as its companies pursue acquisitions around the world. Indian companies made 1,056 international purchases valued at $94 billion from the beginning of 2006 to June 30, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The largest deals are Tata Steel Ltd.’s $12.8 billion purchase of London-based Corus Group Ltd. in 2007 and the $10.7 billion acquisition by Indian billionaire Sunil Mittal’s of most of the African assets of Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications Co., or Zain. That compares with just 14 cross-border M&A deals by Indian firms totaling $590.4 million from 1990 to 2000.

“Indian companies saw opportunities for international expansion and were able to get these assets at a time when some overseas companies were restructuring,” says Nikhil Nath, Hong Kong-based head of mergers and acquisitions for Asia ex-Japan at Nomura Holdings Inc. “Several Indian companies, including M&M, will become truly global companies in the next decade. The Ssangyong deal shows such an aspiration.”

India’s most acquisitive company is Mumbai-based M&M, which sells tractors in 35 countries, mostly under its Mahindra brand. Also India’s largest producer of SUVs, M&M made 28 acquisitions, valued at $1.2 billion, from the beginning of 2006 to June 30. Of those, 11 were outside of India, totaling $752.2 million. And its biggest acquisition to date is Ssangyong Motor.

M&M has been a hit with investors. Shares of the company ― the 15th-largest stock by value on the benchmark Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index ― have risen 33-fold since the beginning of 2002. They traded at 718.3 rupees on July 27.

Mahindra and his wife, Anuradha, editor and publisher of two luxury lifestyle monthly magazines, together own 0.07 percent of M&M, as of March 31, according to Bombay Stock Exchange data. She also has a 1.97 percent stake in Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd., according to Bloomberg data. The couple’s shares in the two companies were worth about $160 million as of July 27.

M&M, which went public in 1956, is the flagship of Mahindra Group, whose corporate motto is “enable people to rise.” The listed companies under Mahindra Group had a combined market value of about $17.6 billion as of June 30, with 119,900 employees in more than 100 countries. (Bloomberg)