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Tata Motors' cash flow may fall by Rs 500 cr

Abhineet Kumar in Mumbai | January 21, 2009 11:59 IST

Tata Motors [Get Quote], which is announcing its results January 30, is likely to end 2008-09 with around Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion) less cash mainly because sales of commercial vehicles, which account for about 60 per cent of its revenues, have dropped sharply.

As a result, the company is reportedly reconsidering a three-year Rs 10,000-crore (Rs 100 billion) capital expenditure plan and faces potential problems raising money to pay for the Jaguar and Land Rover buys.

Cash flow, which Bloomberg defines as net profit less dividend added to depreciation, is expected to be Rs 37.6 per share, according to estimates by six analysts on the financial news agency's records.

Given that Tata Motors has roughly 450 million primary shares in 2008-09, it is likely to have an estimated cash flow of Rs 1,692 crore (Rs 16.92 billion) in the fiscal.

But Bloomberg's data shows an average of Rs 2,186.8 crore (Rs 21.86 billion) of cash flow for 2007-08, around Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion) higher than this year's average estimate.

"The economic slowdown has affected the demand for commercial vehicles," said an analyst with a foreign brokerage who declined to be identified. "This has brought down the company's cash flow," he added.

Commercial vehicle sales dropped to 12,053 units December 2008, a steep 56 per cent drop over the same month of 2007. Overall, between April to December last year, the company sold 1,95,000 commercial vehicles, almost 18 per cent less than the same period the year before.

At 3,34,000 vehicles (including cars) sold April to December Tata Motors' total sales dropped about 8 per cent less over the same period last year.

According to international brokerage Macquarie Research the company may post its first quarterly loss in seven years in the three months ended December.

Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's have cut their debt ratings of the company in the last quarter, citing falling vehicle demand.

The cash flow for the company is critical in the year when it wants to launch the world's cheapest car and has to repay a $2.3 billion bridge loan taken for the acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford. Since the debacle of global equity markets the company has been struggling to raise funds to repay short terms loans taken to buy the two brands.

"The market has punished excess leverage and the aggressive route of inorganic growth," said Amitabh Chakraborty, president (equities), Religare Securities.

The company declined to comment.

To raise funds, the company launched its deposit scheme for the public December 1 and collected Rs 175 crore (Rs 1.75 billion) in a month. The company has a statutory limit of Rs 2,700 crore (Rs 27 billion) for raising public deposits. It did not disclose the specific amount that it plans to raise or the date till which it will run the scheme.

The company also raised Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) through commercial paper Friday. It sold notes to a mutual fund that will mature in March.

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