A BUSINESSDAY analysis of the latest financial accounts for Australia’s big three car makers has found profits were again eroded by hefty royalty payments to parent companies overseas while the government continued to subsidise their operations here.
Royalty payments from GM Holden and Toyota to their overseas bosses last year – Ford did not report these payments – amounted to $221.4 million. This was marginally less than the $222 million the two car makers received in government grants.
The figures are grist to the mill of car industry critics who say the handouts are a waste of taxpayer money, made only because of the threat of plant closures and job losses.
In the case of GM Holden, royalty payments rose to $143 million in 2011 from $129 million in the previous year.
No breakdown was provided by the company but these intellectual property payments, perhaps for use of the logo and so forth, exceeded $89.68 million Holden received in government grants last year.
The grant almost exactly matched the $89.69 million profit GM Holden reported for the same period.
Toyota Australia, the biggest of the car makers, paid out royalties of $78.4 million, compared with $99.9 million the previous year.
Toyota received $132 million in grants during the year.
Sales were $7.2 billion, down from $8.2 billion. But the most striking figures from its financial report were on its costs of sales generated with related parties offshore – it was $5.2 billion out of $6.66 billion worth of sales costs.
Between the three makers, sales were $14.1 billion last year and related party transactions were $7.16 billion.
This means that for every dollar of sales recorded by Australia’s car industry last year, 50¢ of costs were generated by offshore companies related to Holden, Ford and Toyota.
It appears that as well as creating jobs locally – with the help of the government – Holden, Toyota and Ford are also creating plenty of jobs in other countries.
The other telling aspect of the accounts was the overall cost of sales. Other industries may show a gross margin of 50 per cent. By contrast, the auto makers regularly have 90 per cent of their total sales eaten up by cost of sales. Combined, their costs were $13.15 billion last year.
The more that revenue is eaten up in costs and assorted transactions with related companies offshore, the less tax the auto makers pay in Australia.
The most recent accounts appear to corroborate the claims of the car industry’s detractors that they are deliberately ”transfer pricing” and cooking up ways to send money overseas while asking for government grants in Australia. The car industry has always denied this.
The accounts for Ford, the weakest of the three, did not report royalty payments to its US parent.
The car maker reported revenue of $2.75 billion and a loss of $289 million.
It received grants totalling $102 million.
Ford’s retained earnings have been in sharp decline with contingency in its accounts for repaying a government grant because it had not fulfilled the criteria.
At the net profit level, GM Holden’s $89 million profits was down from $112 million in the previous year and Toyota made a loss of $33 million.
Toyota’s loss would mean no tax will be paid, with losses deferred for offsets against future profits.