Aston Martin Q1 2021 Results

Both Aston Martin & Ferrari reported their Q1 2021 results this week.  Ferrari had an excellent quarter, even by pre Covid standards, and then was rewarded by a 10% drop in its stock price.  Aston Martin also took a 10% hit to its stock price this week after reporting both a top and bottom line that beat analyst expectations.  While the stock market can be quite irrational at times, there do seem to be quite sound reasons behind both reactions.  I will cover Aston Martin in this article with one on Ferrari to follow shortly.

2020 was a tale of two parts.  The 1st half was a fight for survival and the 2nd half was laying the road to recovery.  The results Aston presented all use Q1 2020 as the main point of reference and show enormous improvement.  While that presents a nice fuzzy feel-good story, beating a massive turd of a quarter when the company was basically in free fall isn’t really that relevant to understanding the current health and trajectory of the business today. As such, what is relevant when looking at Aston Martin’s results isn’t a comparison to Q1 2020 but rather how are they building on the prior quarter, Q4 2020. 

 

 

Q4 2020

Q1 2021

D%

Cars Wholesale

1,839

1,353

-26%

Revenue

£342 mil.

£242 mil.

-29%

EBITDA

£48 mil

£21 mil.

-66%

Operation Profit

-£94 mil

-£15 mil.

+84%

Free Cash Flow

-£26 mil.

£24 mil.

+93%

Net Debt

£727 mil.

£723 mil.

-0.6%

 

This now is a very interesting picture.  Just based on car sales and revenue, its looks like Aston Martin took a huge step backwards in Q1 versus how they finished the final quarter of 2020.  However, you need to really unpack the numbers and look at the context behind what happened to really understand the situation and see if they are on track to deliver the 6,000 units called for in the current 2021 guidance.  The car sales need to be split into two very different parts, DBX SUV and the Sport/GT cars.  Aston has stated that they have completed the dealer destocking and are now only producing cars to meet demand.  As Aston is no longer reporting retail car sales, there is no way of verifying this is actually happening.  Given Aston is just emerging from channel stuffing “rehab”, a few quarters of “peeing in the cup” and reporting retail sales would provide a lot more confidence that the business is truly recovering.

 

Starting with the DBX sales, in Q4 2020, Aston Martin had the full benefit of the new model pipeline fill.  They wholesaled 1,171 DBXs in Q4 against retail sales of 593.  This left 578 DBXs sitting in dealers’ inventory.  Aston Martin has 160 dealerships globally so this amounts to 3-4 DBX’s per dealer.  In Q1 2021, Aston wholesaled another 746 DBXs (55% of the total number of cars sold).  Assuming that Aston is matching supply with demand and hasn’t relapsed into filling dealers back lots again already, this would straight line to annual sales of 2,984 DBXs which is just under the new revised goal of 3,000 DBXs in 2021 (the original Palmer era goal was 5-6,000 DBXs per year).  However, if I combined Q4 and Q1 and then project that to get a full year 2021 number, it’s 10% short of the goal.  This feels more like a true run rate and might even be a bit optimistic as these two quarters would have also included quite a number of the “must have the new new thing first” crowd.  The only comment offered in any of the Q1 commentary on the DBX order book was that it is “in-line with expectations”. 

With DBX already accounting for over 55% of the cars sold in Q1 and 64% in Q4, its fast becoming the core of the Aston Martin business.  What this is helping to mask, is the collapse of the Sport/GT car sales.  In Q1 2021 Aston sold 601 Sport/Gt cars and in Q4 2020 the number was 629 so this seems like what the run rate will be for at least the next several quarters.  Comparable numbers from Q1 2018 and Q1 2019 are 915 & 1,025.  I believe these are a reasonable point of comparison to use as the massive dealer loading didn’t really ramp up until the back half of 2019.  Net net, sales of the Sport/GTs are now running 30-40% lower than they were pre the late 2019 meltdown and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.  In his earning call comments, the CEO, Tobias Moer, referred to the Sports Car range as “aged”.  If I do the same exercise on averaging the last two quarters to project a full year 2021 number, its 2,460 cars.  That’s an 18% gap to goal. 

 

Aston Martin’s current 2021 guidance is:

 

 

2021 Guidance

2021 Run Rate Based on last 2 Quarters

Cars Wholesaled

6,000

5,138

EBITDA Margin

Mid Teens

Low Teens

Depreciation & Amortization

£240-250 mil.

 

Interest Expense

£145 mil.

 

Capex & R&D

£250-275 mil.

 

 

And the guidance does not include either a revenue target, which will likely be just under £1 billion, or a profit (loss) target which is likely to land in the -£250 mil. range.  It’s very hard to make money when EBITDA barely covers your interest expense.   In fact, the road to profitability is questionable even if Aston delivers against the 2024/2025 target of £2 billion of revenue.  To get to profitability under its current debt load, Aston will need to at least double its current EBITDA margin while holding Depreciation and Amortization and other expenses at current levels.  This is a tall ask as Aston Martin is sitting with £1.3 billion in intangible assets on the balance sheet which will need to be amortized over the coming years.

The earnings call provided a few additional insights but wasn’t quite as rich as it has been in the past. It was just the CEO, Tobias Moers & the new CFO Kenneth Gregor on the earning’s call.  The Executive Chairman, Lawrence Stroll, and his bombastic claims of grandeur were nowhere to be found. It was interesting listening to Moers on the call, this time he seemed tired and far less interested in sparing with the financial analysts.  Looking at a few other areas of interest in a bit more detail:

 

  • Current range & Dealer Destocking: Moers indicated that the dealer destocking was finished and had been completed ahead of schedule. Later on it came out that they are still offering dealer incentives to move Sport & GT cars, just at half the level of Q1 2020.  This raises the question on if the destocking truly has been completed and if Aston really is now matching supply to demand.

 

Regarding the current Sport & GT range, Moer in responding to an analyst question referred to it as “aged”.  It doesn’t appear that a major facelift or relaunch will happen before 2023 when Mercedes supplied technology will be available for both the powertrains and infotainment systems. Moer also indicated that all new cars from 2023 onwards will be either hybrid or electric.

 

  • Valkyrie: The Valkyrie’s has to be the most delayed supercar in history by now. To put it in a bit of perspective, Barack Obama was still the President of the United States when it was launched.  As per the last earnings call, Moers just stated that deliveries would start in the second half of 2021.  Given its already May, this most likely means Q4 2021 (assuming no further delays) so any Valkyrie depositor who is fortunate enough to get a car this year will likely need to spec it with snow tyres if they intend to use it before next summer.  With all the changes in leadership, split with Red Bull, and focus on cost savings I will be very interested to see what Aston finally delivers on the Valkyrie vs. what was originally promised. 
  • Valhalla, and other “Specials”: Moer announced that the “new” Valhalla will be presented in two months. It will be a hybrid and powered by a Mercedes-Benz sourced powertrain.  No mention was made of the V12 Speedster.  From what I understand, Aston has yet to fill all the build slots.  The lesson here is pretty clear, just because Ferrari can sell a very limited use concept to a number of their VIP owners doesn’t mean other manufacturers can pull off the same feat.  The open cockpit “eat more bugs faster” concept hasn’t worked elsewhere.

 

  • Works Formula 1 Team: In interviews Stroll continues to make quite a big deal about the Aston Martin Works F1 Team and the value it is bringing to the brand while provide no data to back up that claim. The use of the word “Works” is certainly a creative one as there is currently no shareholding relationship between the two companies.  It is just a marketing relationship with Aston Martin paying Racing Point a sponsorship fee estimated to be around £20 million a year.  In the 2020 results press release, it is specially referred to as a “sponsorship agreement with commercial terms in line prior F1 expenditures”.  Given Aston Martin’s continued negative operating results, it does not seem like a good use of funds.  Just on an appearance basis it is also questionable as Stroll is having a public company he controls pay a private company that he also owns and his son drives for.  While its clever it’s also quite questionable.  If Stoll truly believes in the value F1 brings to the Aston Martin car business, then he should be merging the two organizations.  On a related note, there are all sorts of rumors flying around the F1 paddock of major dissent and demoralization within the Aston Martin F1 Team related to Stroll’s management style.

 

 

Summary

Moers and his new leadership team are still a long way from being out of the woods.  If 2020 was all about surviving to fight another day, 2021 needs to be the first step towards a solid recovery.  Right now, Aston Martin is teetering between just trying to survive and moving forward towards a brighter future.  One thing that is clear, without the DBX, Aston would be all but dead right now.  While the Mercedes Benz technical partnership gives Aston Martin access to the technology it needs to be able to relaunch the current lineup of Sports & GT cars, that’s unlikely to happen before 2023.  Keeping this “aged” line up alive for two more years will be a major challenge.  Stroll has a grand vision of turning Aston Martin into the “British Ferrari”.  Given the current situation this seems more like intellectual flatulence than a realistic goal.  At this point, just getting back to profitability would be a major accomplishment.  Right now even becoming a “British Lamborghini” with sales 8,500 cars of which 2/3rd are SUVs would be a major step forward. 

 

Analysis of Ferrari’s Q1 2021 coming shortly…….

Thoughts and comments? Please see the comments section below.

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May 2021

 

Recent Posts

10 Thoughts on Aston Martin Q1 2021 Results
    Tim
    10 Jun 2021
    7:58am

    I agree with others, your honest and unbiased writing here is refreshing. Please continue!

    May I ask for some more detail on this quote from the article though please?
    “This is a tall ask as Aston Martin is sitting with £1.3 billion in intangible assets on the balance sheet which will need to be amortized over the coming years.”

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    John
    10 May 2021
    7:15pm

    I also read that they are planning another ten car launches between now and 2023. Bit of Dany Bahar came to mind…

    I hadn’t heard Moers calling the Aston line up “aged”. That really is a smack on Reichman’s face, but really not surprising. That he’s still there to produce those ten new cars is. Put this way, if the Vantage and DBS are now considered old then his designs suck. You could launch Callum’s Vanquish today and it would still grab attention, assuming that you updated the interior with new technology because, well, that has advanced so much since then. But this is the first time that Aston themselves via Tobias is admitting Reichman designs don’t work.

    The question is what do they do? Obviously, and I’ve said this many times, sack Reichman. Then what? Perhaps they’ve already made Julian Thompson an offer?

    One of the worries about the DBX sales is those will be all their pre-sales going out of the door. Once they’ve done their first 3k of preorders what will sales of the DBX be like? I personally think someone with some design talent could have done a once-over on Reichman’s final design and improved it dramatically. Engineering wise it is on point, but just not good enough looking inside and out.

    Valhalla – This really does smell of VX-220 again. 4WD NA V12 promised, RWD, twin turbo V6 delivered. How much of an Aston is it without an Aston engine? Is Aston now just a sub-brand of Mercedes? Stroll doing a badging exercise again with the Aston “brand”?

    I did notice last week Aston offering a special edition of their special edition V12 Speedster. If you questioned if they’d managed to sell the build run of those, that was your answer.

    And on the subject of that special edition V12 Speedster, the Aston Martin Racing Green used there is far better than the one that Reichman spent a year (A YEAR!!!!) developing for their F1 cars. A colour that often looks black, and doesn’t show off either their F1 cars nor their safety cars they’ve provided the FIA with either. Harry’s Garage had a feature on how he asked Aston for a car in the green they have, and they happily provided him with a DBX in that colour. You could see it was nothing like the colour picker he’d gone with via their website, and flipped black when viewed from some angles. He had a company paint match and removed the black flip and lightened the colour a tad too. End result was much better. They should get Harry to do the colours for them.

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    John Mackay
    9 May 2021
    7:50pm

    “intellectual flatulence”…priceless!

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    gary sutton
    10 May 2021
    8:46am

    Only a matter of time before Mercedes takes full control and Stroll walks off into the sunset with a few quid in his bank account🤷.

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    Rob H
    10 May 2021
    11:36pm

    Really enjoyable analysis and insight!

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    Tim
    11 May 2021
    5:19pm

    Plus chief engineer Fraser Dunn has left AML, just before the launch of the Valkyrie!

    Anyone can see from the Netflix series that Stroll is an arrogant man. That never translates into winning as a team, everyone is scared to speak and demoralised. Vettel is there for £15m in his last season, no-one else wanted him.
    He really is throwing all his cash at his son to be an F1 success, and will fail miserably.

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    Ferrari's Q1 2021 Results | karenable
    19 May 2021
    9:31am

    […] both a top and bottom line that beat analyst expectations (analysis of Aston Martin’s Q1: AML Q 1 2021) While the stock market can be quite irrational at times, there do seem to be quite sound reasons […]

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