“It (the increase in stake by Tata Sons) indicates that even as the current momentum owing to the headwinds facing the UK business is not favourable, the promoters see long-term potential in the stock. Their backing gives comfort to investors,” said Nitesh Sharma, analyst at Phillip Capital. Tata Sons spent Rs 6.68 billion in purchase of 26.1 million shares at an average price of Rs 255.80 per share in the September quarter, according to the details of the transaction notified to the BSE.
The latest round of share purchase from the open market takes the holding company’s stake in the operating firm to the highest since the December 2015 quarter. Tata Sons has been gradually shoring up its holding in the beleaguered company as it battles the odds, the worst since it bought the marquee UK-based brands from Ford Motor in 2008. Year to date, Tata Motors’ shares are down 59.5 per cent to Rs 174.8, underperforming the broader auto index that dropped 26.8 per cent in the same period.
Slowing diesel car sales in Europe, uncertainties pertaining to Brexit and an increase in import tariffs in China — one of the largest markets for JLR — dented the company’s September sales by 12 per cent over the corresponding period a year ago. For the quarter ended September, total JLR retail sales dropped 13.2 per cent to 0.13 million units over a year-ago period. The slowing sales prompted the company to cut output at its plants in the UK.
JLR announced a two-week shutdown at its Solihull plant in the UK last month to align itself with the global supply and demand scenario. The unit accounts for little less than one in every two models produced by the maker of Jaguar S Type and Land Rover Discovery models. It also reduced the number of working days to three at another facility in Castle Bromwich that contributes 11% of its volumes.
The pain is likely to continue for the firm in the months ahead, mounting pressure on company’s profitability and margins. Analysts have pared estimates on volumes and earnings. “The initial estimate of production cut considering the closure at both plants would be less than 15,000 units and will impact its third quarter FY19 performance,” wrote Shashank Kanodia and Vidrum Mehta, analysts at ICICI Direct Research, in a report.
ICICI Direct has also pared its wholesale volume forecast by an estimated 10 per cent and 12 per cent for FY19 and FY20, respectively. “Revising our estimates on consolidated basis over FY18-20, we expect sales to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.9 per cent. On the margins front, we expect 140 basis points contraction in Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) margins with a consequent drop in PAT (profit after tax) over FY18-20E,” they wrote. Tata Motors will report its second quarter earnings on October 31.
Others are equally bearish. “We have advised investors against bottom-fishing the stock because Brexit poses several questions. The management has warned that if Brexit is unfavourable, JLR can make a loss. Given the high uncertainties, it’s best to avoid such stocks,” said an analyst at another domestic brokerage.
Meanwhile, Tata Motors is minimising the headwinds facing its UK subsidiary. In an interview to Tata Review, Tata Group’s in-house quarterly magazine, PB Balaji, chief financial officer, Tata Motors Group, said: “The (JLR) teams are facing a new normal—of lower growths with higher capex needs — and are working actively to reduce costs and improve cash flows.”