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GM, Ford miss out on tax benefit Trump hands to German, Japanese automakers

GM and Ford generated deferred tax assets by being unprofitable in the US for years before major restructuring

Jamie Butters David Welch & Keith Naughton | Bloomberg 

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Donald Trump.

Tax cuts signed by an America First president are turning out to be a major boon to some of the world’s biggest automakers -- except those based in the US.

Co. took a $7.3 billion charge in the fourth quarter because the assets it racked up from having reported years of losses in the past are no longer as valuable with the lower US corporate tax rate. Motor Co. has forecast an adjusted effective tax rate of about 15 per cent this year, about the same as what it paid in 2017.

Compare that with the big boost Japanese and German automakers expect from President Donald Trump’s tax bill. Owing less to Uncle Sam will lift profit by about 346 billion yen ($3.1 billion) at Honda Motor Co. and 290 billion yen at Motor Corp. in the fiscal year ending in March, according to the Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler AG reported a favorable impact of about 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to 2017 profit.

“That’s very ironic, for sure,” David Whiston, an analyst with Morningstar Inc. in Chicago, said by phone. “There are always unintended consequences of government intervention and change. But long-term, this is a positive for everybody because they’re going to save some cash taxes.”

How Is Big Business Using the What We Know

GM and generated deferred tax assets by being unprofitable in the US for years before major restructuring -- the former filed bankruptcy in 2009. GM has so many of those assets that the company expects to pay a cash tax rate of less than 10 per cent into the middle of the next decade, according to Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens.

The tax bill doesn’t take those assets away -- it just makes them less valuable for accounting purposes. Since the US corporate tax rate is now much lower, GM’s deferred assets are worth less. also will pay less than the 21 per cent corporate tax rate set by Trump’s tax bill, thanks to the company’s own assets. It doesn’t see a material impact.

Toyota’s Taxes

The benefits to GM and Ford’s rivals, on the other hand, will be manifold. is already the world’s most valuable automaker with a market capitalisation rivaling the combined value of GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Volkswagen AG.

is building a car factory in Alabama with partner Mazda Motor Corp. worth about $1.6 billion -- roughly half of this year’s tax savings -- that’ll allow the company to make and sell more cars in the US

Shares of Toyota jumped as much as 4.6 per cent in Tokyo, the biggest intraday gain since November 2016, while the broader Nikkei 225 index gained as much as 3.2 per cent. Macquarie upgraded the stock.

The company already has more than 36,000 US employees and plans to add 4,000 jobs at the plant it’ll share with Mazda.

Chrysler Bonuses

While Fiat Chrysler -- with roots in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and Turin, Italy -- is still often looped in with US automakers, the company’s tax headquarters are in London.

Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne has estimated about $1 billion a year in savings from the lower US tax rate. Some of those were passed down to US workers in the form of $2,000 bonuses announced last month.

While Germany’s BMW AG won’t release earnings until next month, the company has estimated a positive impact on 2017 profit of about 950 million to 1.55 billion euros in December.

Protecting Profit

To be sure, the tax bill isn’t totally devoid of benefits for US automakers. Ford sees paying low rates for a longer period of time because of the tax reform act, CFO Bob Shanks said last month.

And while the tax cut won’t deliver a direct benefit to GM, it will probably spur economic growth and help auto industry sales, Stevens said in January.

“This is really the transition from protecting the losses post-2005, to protecting the profits,” Kevin Tynan, an auto analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, said in an email.

First Published: Wed, February 07 2018. 08:42 IST