Tata Motors scouts for partners to fund JLR's capital expenditure needs

N Chandrasekaran (left), chairman of Tata Sons, along with Guenter Butschek, CEO & MD, Tata Motors, at the 74th AGM of Tata Motors in Mumbai on Tuesday | Photo: Kamlesh Pednekar
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Automotive, the UK subsidiary of Tata Motors, is looking for partners to fund its massive capital expenditure (capex) needs. 

It has already pared capex by almost a fifth in the last 12 to 18 months and may have to do more in the wake of multiple headwinds. Speaking to shareholders at the 74th annual general meeting (AGM), N Chandrasekaran, chairman, Tata Motors, said the company is weighing proposals for a tie-up.

“The only way to handle the need for capex and additional investments is through partnerships. As we want to spread investments across larger volumes, and there are many discussions from tactical to strategic, these opportunities keep coming and we keep evaluating them. As long as this is in the interest of Tata Motors, we will keep looking at a partnership to address capex,” said Chandrasekaran. 

During 12-18 months, Tata Motors reduced capex from 4.5 billion pounds to 3.8-3.9 billion pounds last year. “We are working to cut it down further. We cannot take a drastic cut beyond a certain level because it will affect the future,” added Chandrasekaran.

China, which used to be JLR’s most significant market till recently in terms of profitability and sales, has started improving after several months of poor performance, said Chandrasekaran. “We met all the dealers in China and their numbers have been improving every month. The numbers for June and July were higher than May. July’s numbers were better on a year-on-year basis,” he said. 

JLR sales during last year closed at 578,915 units, down 5 per cent compared to 2017-18. Overall volumes were down, owing to a sharp decline in China sales.

Tata Motors took an impairment hit of Rs 27,838 crore, mainly due to weak sales and profitability at JLR.

Meanwhile, in an answer to shareholders’ query on the company’s electric vehicle (EV) plans, Chandrasekran said Tata Motors is looking for a significant play in EVs. It is “recalibrating its aspirations much higher” for the segment as it is encouraged after the recent incentives announced by the government to spur demand for such vehicles. 

The maker of Hexa and Tiago models, which presently sells the electric version of Tigor, plans to launch the electric version of the Nexon SUV in January 2020, he said. This will be followed by two more launches, he added. Tata Motors has been working closely with group companies, including Tata Chemicals and Tata Power, on EVs, he said, adding that, if need be, Tata Sons will make investment in Tata Motors to boost the latter’s aspiration for EVs.

The chairman of Tata Group’s holding company regretted the fact that it hasn’t been able to pay any dividend yet again.

“It is disappointing to know the company has not been able to pay dividend for a number of years. This is despite a profit of Rs 2,021 crore. Unfortunately, the accumulated loss on a standalone basis is high, and it does not allow us to announce a dividend,” added Chandrasekaran in his opening remarks.

Several shareholders rued the significant drop in share price even as they expressed displeasure regarding non-payment of dividend.

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