India Watch : India’s Tata Motors losses $54m in quarter

International Herald Tribune/Associated Press, 30th January, 2009

MUMBAI, India – Tata Motors lost 2.63bn rupees ($54 million) last quarter as cost-cutting efforts failed to make up for withering demand, high commodities prices and foreign exchange losses, company officials said Friday. A year earlier, the company posted a quarterly profit of 4.99bn rupees.

“I do believe we had the worst” during the quarter, Managing Director Ravi Kant said. “We don’t expect to see this kind of thing, I hope, in my lifetime. We are seeing signs of improvement which is sustainable.”

Tata, India’s largest commercial vehicle maker, said it sold 98,760 vehicles from October to December, down 31.7 percent from the same period last year, while revenues slipped 34.4 per cent to 47.6bn rupees ($977.9 million). Tata continues to struggle to refinance the remaining $2bn of a $3bn loan it took to buy the Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford Motor Co. in June.

In a short, sober session with reporters, Tata Chief Financial Officer C. Ramakrishnan said plans for an equity offering had been canceled due to unfavorable market conditions. The company is in talks with banks about financing, he added. On Wednesday, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Tata’s debt, which is likely to increase the company’s borrowing costs.

Jaguar sales rose from 10,667 vehicles to 14,710 vehicles in the quarter, thanks to strong demand for the Jaguar XF, but that wasn’t enough to make up for steep losses at Land Rover. Together, volume for the two brands plummeted 35.2 percent to 49,186 vehicles, Ramakrishnan said.

The government needs to address the short-term requirement of liquidity, which is right across the supply chain

Tata officials said they aim to cut costs by an additional 10 billion rupees ($204 million) in the next three years and have canceled 7 billion to 8 billion rupees ($143 million to $163 million) of their planned 100 billion rupee ($2 billion) capital expenditure plans.

Earlier this month, Jaguar Land Rover said it would axe 450 jobs, including 300 managers. Kant said manpower at Tata Motors had also been trimmed “quite substantially.” He declined to quantify the cutbacks, but said more job cuts — both at Tata Motors and its Jaguar Land Rover subsidiary — are being considered.

Kant said Jaguar Land Rover would benefit from Britain’s £2.3bn ($3.3bn) auto industry rescue package, but urged the British government to do more to ease the industry’s sweeping and urgent liquidity problems. “The government needs to address the short-term requirement of liquidity, which is right across the supply chain,” he said.

The company’s dismal results were still better than industry averages – sales of commercial vehicles in India plummeted 40 percent in the quarter, and the company was able to pick up market share amid the carnage, company officials said.

Kant said the new factory for its 100,000 rupee ($2,044) Nano car, which had to be relocated because of violent protests by farmers and opposition politicians, won’t be ready for at least a year.

Vaishali Jajoo, an analyst at Mumbai’s Angel Broking, called the results “quite disappointing.” “I had not expected a loss,” she said. Excluding foreign exchange losses, the company posted a loss of 390m rupees ($8m), against her expectation of a 400m rupee profit, she said. In the past, she commented, domestic sales have helped bolster flagging global demand, but this time both have declined. She added: “I’m not optimistic in the near term.”

[Source: International Herald Tribune]

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