The Jaguar logo sits on display on the back of an XJL luxury sedan. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Jaguar Woes Lead to Tata Motors Loss for the History Books

(Bloomberg) -- The China slowdown sending tremors through the business world has resulted in the biggest record loss in India’s corporate history.

Tata Motors Ltd. shares had their biggest drop in 26 years in Mumbai trading after the company unveiled a writedown in its luxury Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc unit. The shares plunged 17.6 percent, the most since February 1993, to 150.7 rupees after declining as much as 30 percent.

Plummeting sales in China are compounding Jaguar Land Rover’s challenges that include the industry’s shift away from vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel -- a stronghold for the company. Another wild card is its heavy production presence in the U.K. that exposes it to a disorderly Brexit, should that occur.

“Jaguar Land Rover is facing headwinds in multiple fronts, including geopolitical uncertainty and technological disruption apart from sluggish demand scenario in a strong market like China,” said Debjit Maji, an analyst at Stewart & Mackertich Wealth Management in Kolkata, India. “For Jaguar Land Rover, it will be catastrophic if Britain go for no-deal Brexit.”

Tata Motors shares plummeted to the lowest since October 2011. They had already lost more than 50 percent in the past 12 months through Thursday on concerns about Jaguar Land Rover’s waning sales, profitability, high capital-expenditure need and the impact of Brexit.

Carmakers around the planet are getting hurt by the slump in China, whose car market shrank for the first time in more than two decades last year. Daimler AG and BMW AG reduced profit forecasts last year amid pressures from the U.S.-China trade war that’s hit auto demand, while Hyundai Motor Co. said last month it’s letting workers go as it reviews production plans in the world’s biggest market.

The “overall performance continued to be impacted by challenging market conditions in China,” Ralf Speth, head of Jaguar Land Rover, said in a statement on Thursday. “We continue to work closely with Chinese retailers to respond to current market conditions.”

The company said it’s overhauling its China operation, cutting back on deliveries to reduce stock. It’s also streamlined its commercial policies to help compensate for retailers’ losses, and launching extensive on-site training programs to improve the customer experience as well as operations.

Tata Motors wrote down its investment in Jaguar Land Rover by $3.9 billion due to market challenges, especially in China, technology disruptions and rising debt costs. The parent’s net loss was 270 billion rupees ($3.8 billion) in the three months through December, exceeding the deficit reported by Indian Oil Corp. in 2012.

“Tata Motors has bitten the bullet,” Ajay Bodke, the Mumbai-based head of investment strategy at Prabhudas Lilladher Pvt. Ltd. said by phone. “They are reinforcing that they are serious about achieving a turnaround, saving costs and taking measures that might be tough.”

Jaguar Woes Lead to Tata Motors Loss for the History Books

As part of Jaguar Land Rover’s plans to achieve 2.5 billion pounds ($3.2 billion) of investment, working capital and profit improvements by March 2020, the company in January said it would slash its global workforce by 4,500. This is expected to result in a one-time exceptional redundancy cost of around 200 million pounds for the luxury unit of Tata Motors. The cost of the voluntary scheme will be recognized in the quarter ending March 31, the company said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.