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Market unimpressed by Peugeot Citroen recovery plan

The French auto group Peugeot Citroen gave little comfort to investors despite presenting a global recovery strategy aimed at building a money-making culture within the business.

Having made net losses of €7.2 billion ($10.0 billion) in the last two years, the group released a strategic plan titled “Back in the Race”, and emphasized ambitions to grow in China and South-East Asia.

Traders were less than impressed with the changes however which they saw as too little too late and this was reflected in PSA Peugeot Citroen share price which ended the day down 6.3% at €12.83.

New chief executive Carlos Tavares told a conference for analysts that the group had to change mentality. “The profit culture is a point on which we are going to focus,” he said.

“Cash is king,” he added, referring to the important business principle of paying close attention to how money is used relative to the speed with which it is earned.

A crippling problem for PSA Peugeot Citroen in recent years has been the speed at which it has used up cash resources, to the point of needing huge French state guarantees for its credit arm in an effective rescue of the group.

“The group needs to develop a real profit-driven culture and a global approach in order to return to profit more quickly,” the company said in a statement.

Tavares said his basic objective was to concentrate every resource on raising profitability.

The group said it aimed to generate operating cash flow, a measure of the speed with which money is earned before it is allocated, of €2.0 billion from 2016 to 2018.

It was aiming for the car division to generate an operating margin of 2% by 2018 and then 5% under the next medium-term plan for the years 2019 to 2023.

Stock trader Yves Marcais at Global Equities in Paris, commented: “The share had risen strongly recently and the conference by Carlos Tavares was somewhat disappointing, both in terms of margins and in terms of the outlook.”

He said: “The approach is rather cautious. Everything that Tavares says goes in the right direction, but it’s too far away from the market timetable … two-percent margin in 2018, this is not great.

“It won’t be until 2023 until we seen something substantial. The timetable is too spread out. That’s why the market has knocked back PSA.”

To achieve the targets, the group said it would focus on boosting its Peugeot and Citroen brands, and develop the upmarket Citroen DS brand cars so that they no longer competed with other models by the group, and to obtain higher prices for its vehicles.

To do this the group would concentrate on 26 models by 2020 to offer a broader range, higher profitability and target lucrative market segments.

PSA is in the process of acquiring two new shareholders: the Chinese state-controlled Dongfeng auto group, which already works with Peugeot Citroen as well as with the other French auto maker Renault, and the French state.

“The partnership signed with Dongfeng will also help to drive faster growth in the ASEAN region,” the company said in a statement.

PSA, which halved its net loss from €5.0 billion in 2012 to €2.3 billion last year, has been in dire financial straits for some time and desperately needed new capital as well as a way of accelerating its penetration of the Chinese market.

Monday’s strategic plan said the group would also aim to turn around its businesses in Latin America and in Russia, two regions where it is losing money, to achieve profitability in these areas within three years.

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