Shadow banking crisis sends India’s autos sector into a tailspin

A worker adjusts the windscreen wipers of a parked car at a Maruti Suzuki
Updated 05 August 2019

Shadow banking crisis sends India’s autos sector into a tailspin

  • Narendra Modi’s 2016 ban on high-value bank notes, higher tax rates under a new goods and services tax regime, a boom of ride-sharing firms such as Uber and Ola, and a weak rural economy have all played a role

MUMBAI: Sudhir Gharpure and his sales team sat chatting at a big Maruti Suzuki dealership on the outskirts of Mumbai some two hours after its doors were opened on a recent Saturday morning — not a single customer was in sight.
“There used to be close to 15-20 bookings each day, but now we’re down to 3-5 on good days,” said Gharpure, the general manager at the dealership.
Gharpure’s experience is not an isolated one. Across India dealerships are being pushed out of business and the Indian auto sector is going through its biggest slump in nearly two decades. Passenger vehicle sales fell for eight straight months until June, and in May sales dropped 20.55 percent — the sharpest recorded fall in 18 years.
Preliminary data indicates passenger vehicle sales may have plunged as much as 30 percent in July. The slump in India, along with a simultaneous slide in Chinese auto sales, is a blow for automakers wrestling with higher costs driven by more stringent emission norms and a push to develop electric cars.
Unlike in China, where the plunge in cars sales has been caused largely by new emissions rules, India has seen a mix of factors that have combined to erode demand for automobiles.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2016 ban on high-value bank notes, higher tax rates under a new goods and services tax regime, a boom of ride-sharing firms such as Uber and Ola, and a weak rural economy have all played a role.
But many dealers and automakers agree it is a deepening liquidity crunch among India’s shadow banks that has been the biggest single factor in an auto sales collapse, which some fear may lead to more than a million job losses.
Non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), or shadow banks, have dramatically slashed lending following the collapse of one of the biggest, IL&FS, in late 2018.
IL&FS, or Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd, was a behemoth in shadow banking and its defaults and unraveling, amid fraud allegations, have dried up funding for rivals and led to a surge in their borrowing costs.
Non-bank or shadow banking firms generate credit outside traditional lenders, by means such as collective investment vehicles, broker-dealers or funds that invest in bonds and money markets.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Shadow banks, or NBFCs have long funded vast chunk of auto sales.

• With NBFCs struggling, part makers, dealers, buyers stung badly.

• Dealer inventories hit 55-60 day levels, up from 45 days.

• Some 286 dealerships have shut down in the last 18 months, says FADA.

• Banks fear crisis could result in new wave of bad debt on books.

In India, NBFCs have in recent years helped fund nearly 55-60 percent of commercial vehicles both new and used, 30 percent of passenger cars and nearly 65 percent of the two-wheelers in the country, according to rating agency ICRA.
To aggravate matters, the stress in the autos market has also prompted banks to begin trimming their exposure to the sector.
“The car doesn’t sell, it’s the finance that sells,” said R. Vijayaraghavan, a senior marketing consultant at the same Mumbai dealership. “Today the finance is not selling, so the cars are not selling.”

Problems amplified
Some 286 dealerships have shut down in the last 18 months across India as rising costs for inventory management have made businesses unviable, according to the Federation of Automobile Dealers Association (FADA), a lobby group of auto dealers.
“The slowdown in the (NBFC) sector has dragged down vehicle sales growth,” said A. M. Karthik, financial sector head at ICRA. “Now the auto slowdown is becoming more visible as the liquidity squeeze continues.”
Automakers including Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors , and Mahindra & Mahindra are feeling the heat and have either cut production or temporarily closed plants to correct mounting stocks.
According to FADA data, passenger vehicle inventories now stand at 50-60 days up from around 45 days earlier, while those of two-wheelers are even higher at 80-90 days. For commercial vehicles, inventory levels range between 45 and 50 days.

Early recovery unlikely
With the autos sector employing more than 35 million people directly and indirectly, and contributing more than 7 percent to India’s GDP and accounting for 49 percent of its manufacturing GDP, the fallout from the autos slump is huge and presents a big challenge to Modi’s government as it begins its second term.
The entire supply chain, from vehicle manufacturers to component makers, are bleeding amid the slump.


Saudi energy giant to invest $3bn in Bangladesh’s power sector

Updated 32 min 5 sec ago

Saudi energy giant to invest $3bn in Bangladesh’s power sector

  • Experts say deal will usher in more economic and development opportunities for the country

DHAKA: Saudi Arabia’s energy giant, ACWA power, will set up an LNG-based 3,600 MW plant in Bangladesh after an agreement was signed in Dhaka on Thursday.

The MoU was signed by ACWA Chairman Mohammed Abunayyan and officials from the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), officials told Arab News on Monday.

According to the agreement, ACWA will invest $3 billion in Bangladesh’s energy development sector, of which $2.5 billion will be used to build the power plant while the rest will be spent on an LNG terminal to facilitate fuel supply to the plant. Under the deal, ACWA will also set up a 2 MW solar power plant.

In recent months, both countries have engaged in a series of discussions for investment opportunities in Bangladesh’s industry and energy sectors. 

During the Saudi-Bangladesh investment cooperation meeting in March this year, Dhaka proposed a $35 billion investment plan to a high-powered Saudi delegation led by Majed bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, the Saudi commerce and investment minister, and Mohammed bin Mezyed Al-Tuwaijri, the Saudi economy and planning minister.

However, officials in Dhaka said that this was the first investment deal to be signed between the two countries.

“We have just inked the MoU for building the LNG-based power plant. Now, ACWA will conduct a feasibility study regarding the location of the plant, which is expected to be completed in the next six months,” Khaled Mahmood, chairman of BPDB, told Arab News.

He added that there are several locations in Moheshkhali, Chottogram and the Mongla port area for the proposed power plant.

“We need to find a suitable location where the drift of the river will be suitable for establishing the LNG plant and we need to also consider the suitability of establishing the transmission lines,” Mahmood said.

“It will be either a JV (Joint Venture) or an IPP (Independent Power Producer) mode of investment, which is yet to be determined. But, we are expecting that in next year the investment will start coming here,” Mahmood said.

BPDB expects to complete the set-up process of the power plant within 36 to 42 months.

“We are in close contact with ACWA and focusing on the successful completion of the project within the shortest possible time,” he said.

Abunayyan said that he was optimistic about the new investment deal.

“Bangladesh has been a model for the Muslim world in economic progress. This is our beginning, and our journey and our relationship will last for a long time,” Abunayyan told a gathering after the MoU signing ceremony.

Economists and experts in Bangladesh also welcomed the ACWA investment in the energy development sector.

“This sort of huge and long-term capital investment will create a lot of employment opportunities. On the other hand, it will facilitate other trade negotiations with the Middle Eastern countries, too,” Dr. Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), told Arab News.

She added that Bangladesh needs to weigh the pros and cons before finalizing such contracts so that the country can earn the “maximum benefits” from the investment.

“It will also expedite other big investments in Bangladesh from different countries,” she said.

Another energy economist, Dr. Asadujjaman, said that Bangladesh needs to exercise caution while conducting the feasibility study for such a huge investment.

“We need to address the environmental aspects, opportunity costs and other economic perspectives while working with this type of big investment. Considering the present situation, the country also needs to focus on producing more solar energy,” Dr. Asadujjaman told Arab News.