INTERVIEW-Harman chases growth in emerging markets

Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:12pm IST



* Targets $1 bln annual revenue from China by 2015

* Wants to keep up momentum from recent deals

* Could double staff in China, India, Brazil in 2 years

* Shares up 8 percent in last 52 weeks

By S. John Tilak and Saqib Iqbal Ahmed

BANGALORE, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Harman International Industries Inc (HAR.N) is aggressively pursuing contracts with Chinese automakers and speeding up hiring as the audio products maker targets $1 billion in annual revenue there by 2015.

The company is also talking to top car makers elsewhere in Asia, Europe and the United States for multi-million dollar contracts, its chief executive told Reuters in an interview.

Harman, whose brands include Harman Kardon, JBL, Mark Levinson and Infinity, wants to keep up the momentum after recent deals with Fiat (FIA.MI), Toyota Motor (7203.T) and Chrysler.

Other blue-chip customers for its audio and infotainment systems include BMW (BMWG.DE), Audi (NSUG.DE)/Volkswagen (VOWG.DE), Daimler (DAIGn.DE) and PSA Peugeot Citroen (PEUP.PA).

Harman has historically focused on the luxury market but as of late pushed into the global midmarket for infotainment systems, worth about $5 billion. [ID:nWNAB7873]

Contracts with U.S., European and Japanese brands can be worth $500 million to $1 billion over a lifecycle, while deals in China are smaller, CEO Dinesh Paliwal said.

But China -- which overtook the United States as the world's biggest autos market last year -- and other fast-growth emerging markets such as India and Brazil are a big part of Harman's international expansion strategy.

Chinese automakers like Geely (0175.HK), Chery Automobile Co and BYD (1211.HK) have ambitious plans, he said.

"They are dreaming like Henry Ford did. They see Harman as a ticket to the dance floor," said Paliwal, who joined the company from ABB (ABBN.VX)(ABB.N) three years ago.

In fiscal 2010, China accounted for $199 million of Harman's total $3.36 billion revenue.

Harman is targeting revenue of about $1.4 billion from China, India and Brazil by 2015, up from $227 million in fiscal 2010.

The company, whose products were used at the 2009 U.S. presidential inauguration and at Grammy awards, plans to increase staffing in these three countries to 3,000-5,000 within two years from 1,900 currently, said Paliwal. Harman employs 11,000 staff worldwide.

Founded by Sidney Harman in 1953, Stamford, Connecticut-based Harman International created the world's first stereo receiver and the first high-frequency loudspeakers for professional recording studios. Harman unit AKG won the technical Grammy in 2010.

The company competes with Bose, Yamaha, Panasonic Corp (6752.T), Sony Corp (6758.T), Denso Corp (6902.T) and Visteon Corp VSTNQ.PK in various markets.

Paliwal said Harman ousted European and Japanese suppliers to win its recent deal with Fiat.

The company's shares were trading down 9 cents at $29.73 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange. They are up 8 percent in the last 52 weeks, outperforming the broader S&P 500 Index's .SPX 3 percent drop. (Reporting by S. John Tilak and Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Unnikrishnan Nair)

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