Tata Motors’ India Operations Face Acute Challenges, Says Moody’s
A pedestrian walks past a Tata Motors Ltd. showroom in the Ambattur district of Chennai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Tata Motors’ India Operations Face Acute Challenges, Says Moody’s

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Tata Sons infusing $914 million equity in Tata Motors Ltd. is credit positive for the company but the automaker still faces acute challenges in sluggish economic growth, weak liquidity, and tight financing norms, Moody’s Investors Service said on Tuesday.

Moody’s assigned a ‘Ba3’ rating to the proposed senior unsecured notes to be issued by Tata Motors. The rating outlook is negative, Moody’s said in a statement.

“The Ba3 ratings reflect Tata Motors Ltd.’s leading market position in commercial vehicles in India, 100 percent ownership of the premium/luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc, and ownership by Tata Sons, which results in a one-notch uplift, reflecting our expectation of continued parental support, when needed,” says Kaustubh Chaubal, a Moody’s Vice President and Senior Credit Officer.

On Oct. 25, Tata Motors announced that it will make a preferential allotment of equity shares and convertible warrants to Tata Sons for a $914 million equity injection, of which $548 million will be paid immediately, and the balance over a period of 18 months.

Also read: Q2 Results: Tata Motors’ Loss Narrows, Plans To Raise Rs 10,000 Crore

Pro-forma the preferential allotment and the conversion of the warrants, Tata Sons’ shareholding in Tata Motors will increase to 46.4 percent from the current 38.4 percent.

“We view the preferential allotment as a credit positive because TML plans to apply the proceeds towards reducing its debt,” adds Chaubal, who is also Moody’s Lead Analyst for Tata Motors.

“The equity injection also reflects Tata Sons’ continued support, and will somewhat reduce the pressure on Tata Motors’ balance sheet stemming from the weak operating performance of its India business, even as JLR delivers some improvement.”

JLR continues to make progress on its cost savings and efficiency plan with the aim to achieve 1 billion pounds in cost savings by March 2020, having delivered 0.5 billion pounds up to September 2019. In addition, JLR has achieved 1.5 billion pounds of its 1.7 billion pound target on capital expenditure and working capital improvements as of September 2019.

Also read: Jaguar Land Rover Parent Approaches BMW, Geely in Hunt for Partners

Looking ahead, Moody’s expects JLR’s adjusted debt-to-Ebitda ratio to improve from 10.6 at March 2019 to 6 over the next 12 months.

However, Tata Motors’ operations excluding JLR -- in particular CVs and passenger vehicles in India “face acute challenges, with sluggish economic growth, weak liquidity, tight financing norms, and low rural income negatively affecting consumer sentiment,” the statement said.

Tata Motors’ passenger vehicle sales volumes declined by 41 percent in the first half of 2019-20, while CV volumes declined 29.5 percent over the same period.

“Although Tata Motors will likely deliver slightly better volumes in H2 fiscal 2020 as festive demand picks up, Moody’s remains skeptical about the long-term impact of short-term government stimulus measures for the auto industry,” it said.

“The negative outlook primarily reflects the challenges faced by TML's operations excluding JLR, from the Indian auto sector's slowing sales due to weak demand, overcapacity and tightening liquidity,” it said. “The negative outlook also reflects the negative outlook on JLR and the execution risks related to a sustained turnaround in JLR’s financial performance amid a subdued operating environment, uncertainty around Brexit, and the possibility of U.S. tariffs.”

Moody’s said Tata Motors’ ratings could be downgraded if JLR’s ratings are downgraded or the performance of its businesses -- excluding JLR -- remains weak amid subdued market conditions, input cost pressures, disappointing new product sales, or a decline in market share, in turn resulting in weakening earnings and cash flow.

The rating outlook could return to stable if the outlook on JLR's B1 ratings returns to stable; and Tata Motors’ Indian operations, that have been under pressure for the last 2-3 quarters, improve significantly; both resulting in an improving trajectory of Tata Motors’ credit metrics, it said.

“Although unlikely over the next 12-18 months, upward rating pressure could build if JLR's operating performance and consequently its credit metrics improve; Tata Motors arrests the sharp decline in volumes in its CV and PV businesses in India, and gains market share; the Indian PV business generates sustainable positive Ebitda; and the effect of these are reflected in a sustained improvement in credit metrics,” it added.

Also read: Q2 Results: Analysts Hike Target Price For Tata Motors As Loss Narrows

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