Tata not selling Jaguar Land Rover

Jaguar Land Rover’s Cortex project last year worked on developing autonomous off-road self-driving sport utility vehicles (above). A slump in India’s car market, the economic slowdown in China and uncertainty over Brexit have hurt the carmaker’
Jaguar Land Rover’s Cortex project last year worked on developing autonomous off-road self-driving sport utility vehicles (above). A slump in India’s car market, the economic slowdown in China and uncertainty over Brexit have hurt the carmaker’s business. PHOTO: JAGUAR LAND ROVER

Despite escalating losses at its automotive unit, the Indian group is not letting go, but is open to finding partners

The Indian conglomerate that owns Jaguar Land Rover said it is open to finding partners for the carmaker, but is not planning on selling the embattled unit.

"We're not going to sell," said Mr Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company in an expansive business empire that includes Tata Motors. "Auto is a core business for us. In revenue terms, auto is our largest company."

Tata Motors bought the maker of the Jaguar XE sedan and Land Rover Discovery sport utility vehicle from Ford Motor in 2008.

After turning it into a cash cow with booming sales in countries such as Russia and China, Jaguar Land Rover waned to such an extent that it has had to launch a £2.5-billion (S$4.4-billion) savings programme and slash thousands of jobs worldwide.

Losses at Tata's automotive business have mounted with a slump in India's car market, as well as trouble overseas, including an economic slowdown in China, where car sales are sliding, and uncertainty over Brexit.

Jaguar Land Rover is closing its British factories for a week next month to guard against disruption to supply chains from a possible no-deal Brexit.

Mr Chandrasekaran said China sales have "collapsed" with a 50 per cent drop last year, though this year is showing some improvement.

Some problems were selfinflicted, including vehicle quality and dealer issues, he said, noting that the car industry is "going through difficult times".

"Getting the right portfolio, which one we invest in for electric vehicles, and how do we cut cost" are issues that need to be resolved, he said.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Mr Chandrasekaran said dealing with tariffs is the "new normal" for the global car industry and that negotiations around Britain's exit from the European Union have taken too long.

"Sometimes, it's better to have clarity than a desirable result," he said.

The troubles of Jaguar Land Rover are bogging down the Tata group as a whole, with Tata Motors writing down its investment in the British brands earlier this year by US$3.9 billion (S$5.3 billion).

The salt-to-software conglomerate is among India's most indebted, and the slump in the car market is hitting both Tata Motors and Tata Steel, the nation's biggest maker of the alloy.

Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein last month described Jaguar Land Rover as "severely challenged" and said Tata Motors should look at BMW as a buyer because the German company is "awash with cash".

Tata has previously denied reports that it is looking at strategic options for Jaguar Land Rover, including a possible stake sale.

While the company would "always look for partnerships", it does not want deals where "we just sell a stake and we have no say", Mr Chandrasekaran said.

Jaguar Land Rover's capital expenditure has outpaced operating cash flow over the past two years, but he said his target is to reverse that trend by 2021.

"Once we do that, then people will believe what I'm saying: I'm not running away," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2019, with the headline 'Tata not selling Jaguar Land Rover'. Print Edition | Subscribe