Slovakia to feel most pain from Trump car tariffs

The carmaking sector has a 44 percent share of Slovakia’s total industrial production and 35 percent of its exports. (AFP)
Updated 01 July 2018
0

Slovakia to feel most pain from Trump car tariffs

  • Slovakia boasts Germany’s Volkswagen — the country’s biggest private-sector employer — France’s PSA and South Korean Kia along with more than 300 automotive supply companies
  • Carmakers based in Slovakia have so far declined to comment on possible US tariffs

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia: As the world’s largest per capita car producer, Slovakia stands to be hit hardest if US President Donald Trump makes good on his threat to impose a 20 percent tariff on cars imported from the EU, analysts say.
Trump’s threat was the latest salvo in an escalating trade war that saw the European Union slap duties on US-made jeans and motorcycles in a tit-for-tat response to US tariffs on European steel and aluminum exports.
The specter of US tariffs that sent shares in Fiat Chrysler, Daimler and BMW tumbling on European stock exchanges also spooked Slovakia’s automotive sector.
It boasts Germany’s Volkswagen — which is Slovakia’s biggest private-sector employer — France’s PSA and South Korean Kia along with more than 300 automotive supply companies.
All told, they generate over 300,000 jobs in the eurozone country of 5.4 million. Jaguar Land Rover will also open a new plant in September.
This makes Slovakia the EU’s leading car and car part exporter to the United States in terms of share of GDP — and the most vulnerable to tariffs.
“The ratio of overseas car exports to Slovakia’s GDP is significantly the highest among all countries of the EU, with it being up to 1.7 percent,” the Slovak Institute for Financial Policy (IFP) said in a study.
“An increase in customs duties on car imports would have the biggest impact on Slovakia,” it concluded.
As the only Slovakia-based carmaker that exports directly to the US, Volkswagen — and its many local suppliers — will suffer the most should US tariffs be slapped on the high-end Touareg, Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne models produced at its Bratislava plant.
Overall, the carmaking sector has a 44 percent share of Slovakia’s total industrial production and 35 percent of its exports.
Last year, 1,001,520 cars rolled off assembly lines in Slovakia and exports were worth €3.7 billion ($4.3 billion).
Annual production has exceeded one million cars in each of the last three years and is forecast to grow by more than a third by 2020.
A 25 percent tariff on cars could cost Slovakia approximately €90 million, according to IFP calculations.
Tariffs would “definitely pose a challenge for Slovak carmakers reaching out to customers in the United States,” Jan Pribula, Secretary General of the Automotive Industry Association of the Slovak Republic (ZAP), said.
Slovak Economy Minister Peter Ziga has said that Bratislava would rally for unity across the EU in the interests of keeping the car sector tariff-free.
Carmakers based in Slovakia have so far declined to comment on possible US tariffs.
“As these plans are only speculations, we will not comment on them,” Volkswagen Slovakia spokesman Michal Ambrovic said.
The German company’s Slovak operation produced 361,776 cars last year, and 99.7 percent of its production was exported, with 20 percent to the US, according to an internal report made available to AFP.
Groupe PSA Slovakia, maker of Citroën C3 and Peugeot 208 in Trnava, also declined to comment on the tariff impact, but spokesman Peter Svec did say that its plant does not sell to the US market.
PSA produced 335,296 cars in 2017, 91 percent of its production was sold to customers EU countries, according to the company annual report.
KIA Slovakia spokesman Andrej SaHajj also confirmed that sales of its vehicles are restricted to Europe.


Crisis at India’s Jet worsens as it grounds planes, faces strike

The debt-laden carrier has delayed payments to banks, suppliers, pilots and lessors. (Reuters)
Updated 20 March 2019
0

Crisis at India’s Jet worsens as it grounds planes, faces strike

  • More than 20,000 people are employed in the company
  • The company had to stop more than 50% of their aircraft due to insufficient funds

MUMBAI: India's Jet Airways was fighting multiple crises Wednesday after grounding six planes, leaving it with only a third of its fleet flying, while pilots have threatened to walk out and a major shareholder is reportedly looking to offload its huge stake.

The problems at India's number-two carrier come as other airlines struggle to turn a profit despite the sector rapidly expanding in the country over recent years.

Jet, which employs more than 20,000 people, is gasping under debts of more than $1 billion and has now been forced to ground a total of 78 of its 119 aircraft after failing to pay lenders and aircraft lessors.

In a statement late Tuesday announcing its latest grounding, the firm it said it was "actively engaging" with lenders to secure fresh liquidity and wanted to "minimise disruption".

But with hundreds of customers left stranded, Jet's social media accounts have been flooded with often suddenly stranded passengers demanding information, new flight tickets and refunds.

"@jetairways We book our flights in advance so that we save on travel cost and you are sending cancellation (message) now?", read one irate tweet on Wednesday.

"I have sent a DM (direct message) regarding my ticket details. Please respond!", said Sachin Deshpande, according to his Twitter profile a design engineer.

Another, Ankit Maloo, wrote: "Received an email for all together cancellation of flight days before departure without any prior intimation or communication over phone!"

The firm is also facing pressure from its many pilots who have not been paid on time, with unions threatening they will walk off the job if salaries do not arrive soon.

"Pilots will stop flying jet planes from 1st April 2019 if the company does not disburse due salaries and take concrete decisions," a spokesperson for the National Aviator's Guild, a pilots union, told AFP.

India's aviation regulator on Tuesday warned Jet Airways to ensure that staffers facing stress are not forced to operate flights.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that Etihad Airways of the United Arab Emirates has offered to sell its 24 percent stake in Jet to State Bank of India (SBI).

A collapse would deal a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pragmatic pro-business reputation ahead of elections starting on April 11.

India's passenger numbers have rocketed six-fold over the past decade with its middle-class taking advantage of better connectivity and cheaper flights.

The country's aviation sector is projected to become the world's third-largest by 2025.

But like other carries, Mumbai-based Jet has been badly hit by fluctuating global crude prices, a weak rupee and fierce competition from budget rivals.

Alarm bells for Jet first rang in August when it failed to report its quarterly earnings or pay its staff, including pilots, on time. It then later reported a loss of $85 million.

In February, it secured a $1.19 billion bailout from lenders including SBI to bridge a funding gap, but the crisis has since deepened.

"Jet Airways is rapidly reaching a point of no return and running out of assets to keep itself afloat," Devesh Agarwal, editor of the Bangalore Aviation website, told AFP.

"The only solution is equity expansion by diluting its stakes but Jet is just trying to cut losses and running out of options," Agarwal said.

Shares in Jet Airways were down more than five percent on Wednesday.