Jaguar to shun bonds as China prompts shock writedown

LONDON • Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), reeling from a US$4 billion (RM16.4 billion) writedown, a slump in China sales and uncertainty around Brexit, said conditions aren’t right for it to borrow from the bond market and that it’s seeking alternative funding.

The luxury automaker needs to raise US$1 billion within 14 months to replace maturing bonds, while feeding an investment programme for electric cars that’s burning through cash. To support its needs, JLR could increase a receivables facility or turn to other bank financing, with further options including leasing assets and tapping export credit, treasurer Ben Birgbauer said in an interview.

JLR’s owner Tata Motors Ltd shocked investors last Thursday when it revealed the extent of the problems its UK arm is having in China. Sales of Jaguar sports cars and Land Rover SUVs dropped 35% in the world’s biggest auto market in the nine months to Dec 31, sending the unit to a £273 million (RM1.45 billion) loss and knocking as much as 30% off Tata stock.

“Market conditions presently are less favourable in general and our bonds are trading below par, reflecting our recent financial performance,” Birgbauer said by telephone. “We have always said we monitor the debt market and look to issue debt when market conditions are more favourable.”

Britain’s biggest carmaker is slashing 4,500 jobs, or about 10% of the workforce, as it responds to slowing sales. That’s on top of the 1,500 people who left the company in 2018. The measures will trigger a one-off charge of £200 million in the current quarter.

JLR’s 4.5% bonds maturing January 2026 have dropped to a low of 77 cents on the euro, equivalent to a yield of about 8.9%, according to prices compiled by Bloomberg.

The company is not planning to change its preference for unsecured financing, Birgbauer said. Remaining resources include a £1.9 billion undrawn credit facility and £2.5 billion of cash, based on the quarterly numbers published by Tata.

One major problem facing JLR in China is an ineffective dealer network, according to a presentation from the UK business. Only 18% of outlets are in so-called tier-one cities like Shanghai and Beijing, and more than one-third have been open for three years or less.

The company now plans to overhaul the operation, cutting back on deliveries to reduce stock and investing in measures to boost its brand, logo and slogans.

Executives said on a conference call with investors that it’s not possible to predict when China volumes will begin to recover, highlighting international trade tensions and how much stimulus the state chooses to provide as determining factors.  Bloomberg