India’s Tata Motors Ltd geared up for a bigger international presence on Wednesday with the expected announcement of its $2 billion-plus purchase of luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor Co.
Shares in India’s leading vehicle maker dipped on worries about how the deal would be funded and how the global marquee brands would fit into its stable of trucks, buses and passenger cars, including the $2,500 Nano, the world’s cheapest car which it plans to begin selling later this year. The deal was signed on Tuesday and Ford plans to publicly announce the sale in New York at 0800 EST (1200 GMT), sources told Reuters on Tuesday. “We need to know what are the liabilities in this deal, what’s going to be the position of Tata Motors’ balance sheet,” said R.K. Gupta, managing director of Taurus Mutual Fund in New Delhi. “Let’s see the fine print of the deal,” he said. A Tata Motors’ spokesman said the firm would issue a press release on the deal, but declined to say when it would be issued. The managing director of Tata Motors, Ravi Kant, is due to hold a press conference in Bangkok on Thursday, on Tata Motor’s Thai business.
Tata Motors, India’s top bus and truck maker, has been in talks with Ford since it was chosen as the front runner to buy Jaguar and Land Rover a few days into 2008. Shares in Tata Motors, also India’s No. 3 car maker, closed down 0.1% at 679.40 rupees in a Mumbai market that fell 0.8%. The stock, which fell as much as 4.2% earlier on Wednesday, is down 8.5% this year, while the main index has fallen 20.7%.
BALANCE SHEET EYED
Standard & Poor’s placed Tata Motors on review for a possible downgrade in January from its current high-yield “BB+” rating, citing the potential increase in its debt load from the acquisition of the venerable Jaguar and Land Rover brands. Tata Motors has announced plans to raise $4 billion of funding, which is expected to help finance the Ford deal and the manufacture of the Nano, which it unveiled in January. The deal comes at a time when the credit-market crisis has raised borrowing costs and deterred deal-making across the globe. Still, at least one analyst was upbeat about the deal, saying it would help Tata Motors move into the global marketplace.
“The deal is positive in terms of Tata being able to make a statement that they have a global footprint, instead of being a company just focused on the domestic market,” said Mohit Arora, managing director for India at J.D. Power Asia-Pacific. “The challenge is how quickly and how well they integrate these luxury brands in their portfolio. Tatas are not known for luxury goods,” he said. “Also, Tatas would have to continuously upgrade the products ... there is lot of cash infusion that needs to come in on a continuous basis.”
Ford, which lost $2.7 billion in 2007 and $12.6 billion in 2006, is selling off Jaguar and Land Rover to focus on turning around its loss-making operations in North America. Tata Motors, which has a market value of $6.5 billion, is a member of the Tata Group, which comprises 98 companies in various sectors including steel, salt, software, energy, cars and trucks, communications and chemicals. The Tata Group has made a number of overseas takeovers in recent years, including last year’s $13 billion buy of Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus by Tata Steel Ltd. (Reuters)