Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc’s bond risk quadrupled this year as the automaker plays catch-up on electric vehicles and is hit by weakened demand in China. Moody’s Investors Service is warning of more tough days ahead.
Moody’s on Nov. 13 cut its rating on Jaguar, owned by India’s Tata Motors Ltd., to Ba3, three levels below investment grade. Jaguar’s weak operating performance “will likely continue over at least the next 12-18 months” and it will weigh on the parent’s performance too, it said.
Diesel vehicles account for just under 90 percent of Jaguar’s sales in Europe at a time when consumers are increasingly choosing more environmentally friendly options. By 2040, more than half of all new car sales and a third of the planet’s automobile fleet -- equal to 559 million vehicles -- will be electric, according to a global outlook published by Bloomberg NEF.
“JLR has an above average exposure to diesel engines which face a very uncertain demand outlook,” said Nicholas Harrison, credit sector strategist at RBC Capital Markets. “JLR has fallen from being widely viewed as a rising star a year and a half ago to now sitting comfortably in BB category.”
Credit-default swaps protecting Jaguar’s debt against non-payment using five year contracts surged to 582 basis points on Thursday, a six-year high. The cost to buy protection on Jaguar bonds was as low as 113 basis points in August of last year.
“Jaguar is pushing into EVs,” said Joel Levington, director of credit research at Bloomberg Intelligence. “That is coming at a heavy capex and R&D cost, which are key drivers behind its weakening credit. More like they need to take a step backwards before they can move forwards.”