India’s car stocks have lost $42 billion in value in the last 16 months, and some analysts say the rout may not be over.
A gauge of automobile companies has fallen 30 percent since reaching a record in December 2017, and is the worst-performer among 19 sector indexes in the nation’s equity market this year. That’s as the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex Index rallied to a fresh peak last month.
Cumulative sale at India's top six passenger vehicle (PV) makers in March dropped 0.7 per cent to 267,000 units, from 269,000 a year before. Higher cost of financing, with higher premium outgo on insurance, are among the factors weighing on buyer sentiment.PV sales had also dropped 1.1 per cent in February, the seventh decline in eight months.
This has prompted the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers to say they would not be meeting even their scaled-down forecast of a six per cent rise for 2018-19.
A slowdown in consumption amid a cash crunch in the banking system has left carmakers with a pile of unsold vehicles in what was one of the world’s fastest-growing auto market until last year. Little surprise then that Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., Hero MotoCorp Ltd. and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. are among the biggest decliners on the Sensex this year, notching losses of up to 20 percent.
“Initial trends are looking weaker than expected,” Nomura Holdings Inc. analysts Kapil Singh and Siddhartha Bera wrote in a May 2 note. “Most companies in the sector have further earnings risks due to weaker-than-expected demand.”
Passenger vehicle growth in the financial year ended March was the slowest since 2014, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. Maruti Suzuki, the nation’s largest by market share, slid for seven days through Tuesday after saying April revenue declined 17 percent from the year-ago month.
Only two of the 16 companies on the S&P BSE Auto Index have held their heads above water this year: Tata Motors Ltd., the maker of Jaguar Land Rover, rebounded last month after declining to its lowest level since 2011 in February. Bajaj Auto Ltd. is up 11 percent amid an increase in its sales of two-and-three wheelers for the year ended March by a quarter to 5 million units.
The new financial year 2019-20, seemed unlikely to offer relief and sales are expected to remain in the slow lane till a post-election government takes charge. Dispatches at most companies, with the exception of a few, were either muted or fell, amid a pile of unsold stock (auto companies in India count dispatches to dealers as sales).
Auto companies that have attractive products, are disciplined in managing their inventories and invest in research and development should still outperform during the slowdown, Pramod Kumar and Anubhav Bajpai, analysts from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. wrote in a report.
But they are still cautious: “We don’t see any relief in the near term.”