|Bid||0.00 x 0|
|Ask||0.00 x 0|
|Day's Range||52.28 - 53.50|
|52 Week Range||36.60 - 77.06|
|Beta (5Y Monthly)||1.40|
|PE Ratio (TTM)||7.06|
|Earnings Date||Aug. 05, 2020|
|Forward Dividend & Yield||2.50 (4.75%)|
|Ex-Dividend Date||May 15, 2020|
|1y Target Est||93.69|
(Bloomberg) -- The extent of the devastation wrought on the European car industry by the coronavirus pandemic came into sharp focus on Friday when a sampling of major vehicle and parts manufacturers from France to Sweden revealed plans for at least 35,000 job cuts.Renault SA said it will eliminate about 14,600 workers worldwide and lower production capacity by almost a fifth as part of a sweeping three-year overhaul. The cuts in France were unveiled just as Stockholm-based Autoliv Inc., the world’s largest supplier of seat belts and airbags, said it’s also culling workers. And in Germany, BMW AG chimed in with sweetened incentives to get 5,000 workers to leave, while supplier ZF Friedrichshafen laid plans to eliminate as many as 15,000 positions.The thinning-out come as the continent’s auto sector emerges from a double blow dealt by the health crisis, which first snarled manufacturers’ supply chains that were reliant on parts from China, where the outbreak began. Then strict lockdowns in countries like France, Germany and the U.K. shut factories and dealerships overnight, leaving consumers at home and car inventories to pile up. As people around the world begin to emerge from self-isolation, there’s no telling when the public will start shelling out to buy new cars again.“This adverse economic situation has shown the limits of our business model, which was betting on unprecedented growth in emerging markets and in sales volumes,” acting Renault Chief Executive Officer Clotilde Delbos said as she provided details about how the bloated company would proceed with a deep and painful downsizing following years of expansion.The measures by the European companies herald a tricky time for politicians and top management. Governments extended unprecedented financial aid to keep businesses afloat and workers employed, and now companies are facing the necessity to re-size their industrial footprint to reflect shrinking demand.Renault’s plan includes the politically delicate task of trimming 4,600 positions in France, or about 10% of the carmaker’s total in its home country, through voluntary retirement and retraining. More than 10,000 further jobs will be scrapped in the rest of the world, pruning a global workforce of about 180,000 people.The measures round off a decisive week for the French company and its Japanese partners Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., drawing a line under a two-decade era of aggressive expansion under the alliance’s former leader, Carlos Ghosn, who was arrested in late 2018.The European car industry is particularly hard hit by the pandemic crisis because of overcapacity before the virus hit. Fiat is asking for a $6.9 billion state-backed loan to save its Italian operations and Volkswagen AG is facing pressure from German labor groups worried about job cuts at home. In Spain, Renault’s partner Nissan is contending with angry workers protesting a plan to close a plant in Barcelona, while French unions have called for a strike at a plant in the north of the country.In Germany, BMW is treading carefully around head-count reduction, negotiating with unions about giving more incentives to workers to persuade them to leave. It has been unable to meet its staffing reduction goal with existing measures, Chief Financial Officer Nicolas Peter said in an internal posting confirmed by the company. Those have included placing employees on unpaid leave and reducing working hours for those on shorter contracts.Parts MakersZF, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of brakes and other automotive parts, will pare back by between 12,000 and 15,000 jobs, according to people familiar with the matter, or 10% of its global workforce.At Autoliv, Chief Executive Officer Mikael Bratt said the company’s largest markets in the Americas and Europe were at a virtually stand still in April and a slow and volatile restart is leading to job cuts in the three months through June.“With our largest markets Americas and Europe virtually standing still in April, the challenges we are managing in the second quarter are unprecedented,” Bratt said.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Stocks were supposed to be mired in a bear market after they plunged in March as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered business and sent U.S. unemployment to its highest rate since the Great Depression.Even a 62% recovery by the S&P 500 Index by the middle of May failed to comfort experts like billionaire money managers Stan Druckenmiller and David Tepper , who characterized stocks as the worst investments of their careers. They weren't alone; amid an estimated 47% collapse in gross domestic product, fewer than a quarter of respondents to an Evercore ISI survey said they expected the next 10% move in the market to be higher.So far, though, stocks have held their own as economic indicators sagged, regaining 37% of their value from the low point in mid-March. “The stock market looks increasingly divorced from economic reality,” a New York Times article on the phenomenon proclaimed.Or maybe not — not if you think of it as the Microsoft market. No company has defied the pessimism more than Microsoft Corp., and for a lot of sensible reasons. The Seattle-based maker of global business and consumer software led all publicly traded companies most of the year with a $1.4 trillion market valuation, exceeded only by Saudi Arabian Oil Co. which isn't yet freely traded.Unlike the largest fossil fuel company, which lost 13% since its December $1.9 trillion initial public offering, Microsoft is within 5% of its Feb. 11 record high and appreciated $947 billion since 2015, more than any of the 10 largest companies, including Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. The gap between Microsoft and Aramco narrowed to $229 billion from $840 billion, a trend likely to continue amid weak global growth in the months ahead.That's because Microsoft, unlike Aramco, is a mainstay of the global economy, developing and supplying 75% of the operating systems used by computers and servers worldwide, according to the market-analysis company IDC.Microsoft's vast infrastructure and productivity applications enable companies, governments and individuals to navigate increasing social and workforce disruption caused by the pandemic and other disasters stoked by global warming and climate change.As one of the anchors of the Nasdaq 100 Index (more than 80% are technology firms) Microsoft signifies the growing dependence of the economy on these companies, which this year outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average by the most since 2000 (Nasdaq 100 gained 8% as the DJIA lost 10%), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.“Microsoft could emerge stronger than most of its rivals once the Covid-19 crisis subsides, in our view, as enterprises spend more to upgrade their infrastructure and applications, translating into above-consensus, double-digit sales growth from fiscal 2022-2021,” said Anurag Rana, a senior analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence in a May 15 report. “Its deep portfolio of cloud products, client relationships and security spending are differentiators.”Such confidence is prompted by the past five quarters, when Microsoft earnings for the first time exceeded forecasts by at least 10% after beating the average of analyst estimates in all but one of the 23 quarters since 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Unlike its five more glamorous peers — Facebook Inc., Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google (Alphabet) — Microsoft has an uninterrupted growth rate with the least volatility, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.To be sure, the Faang companies and similar technology marvels retained much of their value during the Coronavirus pandemic. Netflix has gained 28% since the end of 2019; Amazon is up 30%, Apple 9%, Facebook 10%. Tesla Inc., the maker of electric, battery-powered vehicles, rallied 93% since the end of 2019 and is worth just $59 billion less than No. 1 Toyota Motor Corp.Tesla anticipated the remotely engaged economy by selling its vehicles online and improving the customer experience with periodic, automatic software upgrades. The traditional auto companies haven't fared well. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, is down 24% since the end of 2019 and General Motors Co., the largest U.S. auto maker, declined 28% and is worth only 26% of Tesla's current market capitalization of $149 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.That's why the Dow, once the benchmark of corporate America, is a shadow of its former self as industrial companies represent just 9% of the average, down from 16% in 2000, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.“Microsoft already had a great relationship with Fortune 2000 tech departments because of its dominance in Windows and Office software products,” said Bloomberg's Rana in a recent interview. “As these legacy companies look to invest more digitally transforming their business post Covid-19, Microsoft should get its fair share of work” — lifting the stock market as it helps transform the economy.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Matthew Winkler, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Bloomberg News, writes about markets.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- At a factory near Germany’s border with the Czech Republic, Volkswagen AG’s ambitious strategy to become the global leader in electric vehicles is coming up against the reality of manufacturing during a pandemic.The Zwickau assembly lines, which produce the soon-to-be released ID.3 electric hatchback, are the centerpiece of a plan by the world’s biggest automaker to spend 33 billion euros ($36 billion) by 2024 developing and building EVs. At the site, where an East German automaker built the diminutive Trabant during the Cold War, VW eventually wants to churn out as many as 330,000 cars annually. That would make Zwickau one of Europe’s largest electric-car factories—and help the company overtake Tesla Inc. in selling next-generation vehicles.But Covid-19 is putting VW’s and other automakers’ electric ambitions at risk. The economic crisis triggered by the pandemic has pushed the auto industry, among others, to near-collapse, emptying showrooms and shutting factories. As job losses mount, big-ticket purchases are firmly out of reach—in the U.S., where Tesla is cutting prices, more than 36 million people have filed for unemployment since mid-March. Also, the plunge in oil prices is making gasoline-powered vehicles more attractive, and some cash-strapped governments are less able to offer subsidies to promote new technologies.Even before the crisis, automakers had to contend with an extended downturn in China, the world’s biggest auto market, where about half of all passenger EVs are sold. Total auto sales in China declined the past two years amid a slowing economy, escalating trade tensions, and stricter emission regulations. EV sales are forecast to fall to 932,000 this year, down 14% from 2019, according to BloombergNEF. The drop-off is expected to stretch into a third year as China's leaders have abandoned their traditional practice of setting an annual target for economic growth, citing uncertainties. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect just 1.8% GDP growth this year.The global market contraction raises the prospect of casualties. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire has warned that Renault SA, an early adopter of electric cars with models like the Zoe, could “disappear” without state aid. Even Toyota Motor Corp., a hybrid pioneer when it first introduced the Prius hatchback in 1997, is under pressure. The Japanese manufacturer expects profits to tumble to the lowest level in almost a decade.Automakers who for years have invested heavily in a shift to a high-tech future—including autonomous vehicles and other alternative energy-based forms of transportation such as hydrogen—now face a grim test. Do their pre-pandemic plans to build and sell electric cars at a profit have any chance of succeeding in a vastly changed economic climate? Even as Covid-19 has obliterated demand, for the car makers most committed to electric, there’s no turning back.“We all have a historic task to accomplish,” Thomas Ulbrich, who runs Volkswagen’s EV business, said when assembly lines restarted on April 23, “to protect the health of our employees—and at the same time get business back on track responsibly.”Volkswagen Pushes AheadGlobal EV sales will shrink this year, falling 18% to about 1.7 million units, according to BloombergNEF, although they’re likely to return to growth over the next four years, topping 6.9 million by 2024. “The general trend toward electric vehicles is set to continue, but the economic conditions of the next two to three years will be tough,” said Marcus Berret, managing director at consultancy Roland Berger.Volkswagen’s Zwickau facility became the first auto plant in Germany to resume production after a nationwide lockdown started in March. Before restarting, the company crafted a detailed list of about 100 safety measures for employees, requiring them to, among other things, wear masks and protective gear if they can’t adhere to social-distancing rules.The cautious approach has reduced capacity—50 cars per day initially rolled off the Zwickau assembly line, roughly a third of what the plant manufactured before the coronavirus crisis. (VW said Wednesday that daily output had risen to 150 vehicles, with a plan to reach 225 next month.) Persistent software problems also have plagued development of the ID.3, one of 70 new electric models VW group is looking to bring to market in the coming years. Still, Ulbrich and VW CEO Herbert Diess over the past three months have reaffirmed Volkswagen’s commitment to electrification. “My new working week starts together with Thomas Ulbrich at the wheel of a Volkswagen ID.3 - our most important project to meet the European CO2-targets in 2020 and 2021,” Diess wrote in a post on LinkedIn in April. “We are fighting hard to keep our timeline for the launches to come.”Diess has described the ID.3 as “an electric car for the people that will move electric mobility from niche to mainstream.” Pre-Covid, the company had anticipated that 2020 would be the year it would prove its massive investments and years of planning for electric and hybrid models would start to pay off.A more pressing worry that could hamper VW’s ability to scale up production is its existing inventory of unsold vehicles. The cars need to move to make room for new releases, but sales are down as consumers are tightening their spending. One response has been to offer improved financing in Germany, including optional rate protection should buyers lose their jobs. VW also has adopted new sales strategies first used by its Chinese operations, such as delivering disinfected cars to customer homes for test drives, and expanding online commerce.Other German automakers are similarly pushing ahead with EV plans. Daimler AG is sticking to a plan to flank an electric SUV with a battery-powered van and a compact later this year. BMW AG plans to introduce the SUV-size iNEXT in 2021 as well as the i4, a sedan seeking to challenge Tesla’s best-selling Model 3.A potential obstacle for all these companies—apart from still patchy charging infrastructure in many markets—is the availability of batteries. Supply bottlenecks appear inevitable given that the number of electric car projects across the industry outstrip global battery production capacity. And boosting cell manufacturing is a complicated task.China's (Weakened) EV Dominance For VW and others, the first big test of EVs’ appeal in a Covid-19 world will come in China. Diess has referred to China as “the engine of success for Volkswagen AG.” VW group deliveries returned to growth year-on-year last month in China, while all other major markets declined.Not long ago, China appeared to be leading the world toward an electric future. As part of President Xi Jinping’s goal to make the country an industrial superpower by 2025, the government implemented policies that would boost sales of EVs and help domestic automakers become globally competitive, not just in electric passenger cars but buses, too.With the outbreak seemingly under control in much of the country, China is seeing some buyers return to the showrooms, but demand for passenger cars is likely to fall for the third year in a row, putting startups like NIO Inc. at risk and hurting more-established players like Warren Buffett-backed BYD Co., which suffered from a 40% year-on-year vehicle sales decline in the first four months of 2020.The Chinese auto market may shrink as much as 25% this year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, which before the pandemic had been expecting a 2% decline. EV sales fell by more than one-third in the second half of 2019.NIO, the Shanghai-based startup that raised about $1 billion from a New York Stock Exchange initial public offering in 2018 but lost more than 11 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) last year, was thrown a much-needed lifeline when a group of investors, including a local government in China’s Anhui Province, offered 7 billion yuan last month.Other Chinese manufacturers are counting on support from the government, too, including tax breaks and an extension to 2022 of subsidies, originally scheduled to end this year, to make EVs more affordable.For now, the government will also look to help makers of internal combustion engine vehicles, at least during the worst of the crisis, said Jing Yang, director of corporate research in Shanghai with Fitch Ratings. But, she said, “over the medium-to-long term, the focus will still be on the EV side.”America is Tesla CountryCompanies can’t count on that same level of support from President Donald Trump in the U.S., where consumers who love their SUVs and pickup trucks have largely steered clear of electric vehicles other than Tesla’s.The U.S. lags China and Europe in promoting the production and sale of EVs, and that gap may widen now that Americans can buy gas for less than $2 a gallon.“When you’re digging out of this crisis, you’re not going to try to do that with unprofitable and low-volume products, which are EVs,” said Kevin Tynan, a senior analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence.Weeks after announcing plans to launch EVs for each of its brands, General Motors Co. delayed the unveiling of the Cadillac Lyriq EV originally planned for April. Then on April 29, the company said it would put off the scheduled May introduction of a new Hummer EV. The models are part of CEO Mary Barra’s strategy to spend $20 billion on electrification and autonomous driving by 2025, to try to close the gap with Tesla.In another move aimed at winning over Tesla buyers, Ford Motor Co. unveiled its electric Mustang Mach-E last November at a splashy event ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show. The highly anticipated model had been scheduled to debut this year. Ford has not officially postponed the release, but the company has said all launches will be delayed by about two months, potentially pushing the Mach-E into 2021.Elon Musk, whose cars dominate the U.S. electric market, cut prices by thousands of dollars overnight. The Model 3 is now $2,000 cheaper, starting at $37,990. The Model S and Model X each dropped $5,000.Musk engaged in a high-profile fight with California officials this month over Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, which had been closed by shutdown orders Musk slammed as “fascist.” In a May 11 tweet, he said the company was reopening the plant in defiance of county policy. On May 16, Tesla told employees it had received official approval.During most of the shutdown in California, the company managed to keep producing some cars thanks to better relations with local officials regulating its other factory, in Shanghai. That plant closed as the virus spread from Wuhan in late January, but the local government helped it reopen a few weeks later in early February.First Zwickau, Then the WorldThe ID.3’s new electric underpinning, dubbed MEB, is key to VW’s strategy to sell battery-powered cars on a global scale at prices that will be competitive with similar combustion-engine vehicles. Automakers typically rely on such platforms to achieve economies of scale and, ultimately, profits. MEB will be applied to purely electric vehicles across all of the company’s mass-market brands, including Skoda and Seat.VW said it spent $7 billion developing MEB after Ford last year agreed to use the technology for one of its European models. Separately, the group’s Audi and Porsche brands are built on a dedicated EV platform for luxury cars that the company says will be vital in narrowing the gap with Tesla.VW plans to escalate its electric-car push by adding two factories, near Shanghai and Shenzhen, that it says could eventually roll out 600,000 cars annually, more cars than Tesla delivered globally last year.While China is the initial goal, making a dent in Europe and the U.S. is the long-term one. Like China, Europe had been tightening emissions regulations significantly before the pandemic. New rules to reduce fleet emissions will gradually start to take effect this year, effectively forcing most manufacturers to sell plug-in hybrids and purely electric cars to avoid steep fines.Because of the mandates, Europe’s commitment to electrification isn’t going away, said Aakash Arora, a managing director with Boston Consulting Group. “In the long term, we don’t see any relaxation in regulation,” he said.For VW, this crisis wouldn’t be the first time it started a new chapter in difficult times. Diess saw an opportunity coming off the manufacturer’s years-long diesel emissions scandal that cost the company more than $33 billion to win approval for the industry’s most aggressive push into EVs. When VW unveiled the ID.3, officials compared its historic role to the iconic Beetle and the Golf, not knowing that this might hold in unintended ways: The Beetle arose from the ashes of World War II, and the Golf was greeted by the oil-price shock in the 1970s.“We have a clear commitment to become CO2 neutral by 2050,” VW strategy chief Michael Jost said, “and there is no alternative to our electric-car strategy to achieve this.”(Updates with Tesla price cut starting in the third paragraph. An earlier version corrected the spelling of Berret in the ninth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- DefinedCrowd, an Amazon.com Inc.-backed startup that provides data sets to train artificially intelligent speech programs, is setting its sights on a public listing in the next five years as voice interactions between humans and machines become more common.The Seattle-based company raised $50.5 million in a recent funding round led by existing investors, paving the way for an initial public offering within the next five years, Chief Executive Officer Daniela Braga said in an interview. The company declined to comment on its valuation.“It’s the road to an IPO,” Braga said, adding her company’s ambition is to support the development of AI so that people eventually will “communicate with machines the same way we do with humans.”Founded by Braga in 2015, DefinedCrowd curates voice and text data for clients including BMW AG and Mastercard Inc. to train virtual assistants and customer-service chatbots. The company designs the sets to be diverse and balanced, representing certain dialects or age ranges for audiences most likely to use the systems. Revenue grew 656% last year and is expected to triple this year, Braga said.Once the pandemic subsides, Braga said she expects businesses from a range of industries – including telehealth and education – to build AI personal assistants to better serve customers, something that might require more specific data that incorporates an industry’s vocabulary.Amazon, Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have come under fire over revelations they used recordings of customers’ interactions with virtual assistants to train their AI systems. A former contractor working on Apple’s Siri transcription project in Ireland last week complained to European privacy authorities over the “massive violation of the privacy of millions of citizens.” The companies said they’ve made changes to provide users with more control over their data.By contrast, DefinedCrowd uses a crowdsourcing platform, Neevo, to generate data from a paid community of more than 290,000 members in 70 countries. Crowd members are asked to complete tasks like recording their voices or transcribing and annotating recordings rather than pulling data from customers who are using voice AI products.Braga said the newly raised funds will help the company expand its products and nearly double the number of employees in 2020. The company current employs around 268 people. Existing investors that participated in the funding round include Evolution Equity Partners, Kibo Ventures, Portugal Ventures, Bynd Venture Capital, EDP Ventures, and Ironfire Ventures as well as new investors Semapa Next and Hermes GPE.Amazon and Sony Corp., which is also an existing investor, didn’t increase their stakes in the latest round, Braga said, adding it was a strategic move not to increase the involvement of other companies as DefinedCrowd moves toward an IPO.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- John Elkann, scion of the billionaire Agnelli clan, isn’t having an easy Covid-19 crisis. His $9 billion sale of the PartnerRE reinsurance business collapsed last week after the family’s holding company, Exor NV, refused to lower its asking price price. Then Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said it would scrap a proposed dividend for 2019, denying Exor another 315 million euros ($341 million) in change.And things could get worse. The terms of Fiat’s proposed merger with France’s Peugeot SA, negotiated before the coronavirus pandemic, require the Italian carmaker to pay its shareholders — the largest of whom are the Agnellis — a 5.5 billion-euro special dividend before the deal closes.The size of that payment always looked questionable, given that Fiat’s balance sheet is inferior to Peugeot’s. The Covid-19 outbreak makes it unconscionable. Having halted production, both companies are burning through cash and Fiat has had to ask Italy to guarantee a 6.3 billion-euro three-year loan to support its domestic suppliers. Surely the first priority here should be making sure the new company has strong enough finances as the economy starts to reopen.The politics of Fiat asking for help from Rome is especially awkward after the carmaker moved its tax residency to the U.K. in 2014, and its legal headquarters to the Netherlands. Last year, Italy’s competition watchdog said that the country’s tax revenues had suffered significantly as a result.Paying a fat dividend to the Agnellis and other shareholders after leaning on taxpayers probably wouldn’t go down very well with the public — as Germany’s BMW AG and other recent dividend payers have discovered. If Elkann still wants his sweetener, the two parties will need to find a way that doesn’t bleed the new merged entity of cash.Right now, money is flowing rapidly out of both companies. For the most part that’s because suppliers still need paying, even though the companies aren’t selling many cars. I’ve written before about companies suffering from these so-called negative working-capital problems.Fiat ate through 5 billion euros of cash in the first three months of 2020 and it could consume twice that in the second quarter, according to Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois. He expects Peugeot to burn through about 8 billion euros of cash in the first half of the year.Neither company is in danger of running out of money, and those working capital-related outflows should reverse once the carmakers start producing and selling cars again. Even so, one lesson of Covid-19 is that companies need larger cash cushions. Until there’s a vaccine, there’s a risk that a second virus wave would trigger yet more industrial disruption.There’s no great urgency for Fiat and Peugeot to alter the terms of their union as the deal isn’t expected to close until early next year. The rationale for joining forces remains intact; the cost savings from working together look even more important now. But they should be thinking of ways to make the future company resilient.Structured as a 50-50 merger, Peugeot ended up paying a premium for boardroom control, as well as for the Italian company’s lucrative U.S. truck business — even though Peugeot shares had been valued more highly by the market. Some of the arguments for paying Fiat a sweetener remain valid: Peugeot’s reliance on the struggling European car market isn’t looking too attractive right now. But there are other ways to compensate Fiat shareholders. For example, Peugeot is due to spin off its 46% stake in parts supplier Faurecia SE to its shareholders as part of the original merger terms. This could be retained instead by the combined business.Without their Fiat dividends, the Agnellis will have less money to reinvest in new ventures. Right now, though, the car industry’s need is greater.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Chris Bryant is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering industrial companies. He previously worked for the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Tesla Inc. asserts that restarting its operations in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t make the company an outlier, nor is it going against the grain.But its chief executive officer’s handling of the health crisis has been anything but ordinary. Tesla sued the county blocking its car plant from reopening, with Elon Musk calling the local health officer -- a former infectious diseases professor with a master’s degree in public health -- “unelected & ignorant.” He threatened to move Tesla’s headquarters out of California, warning that all its manufacturing may leave the state, too.The weekend flare-up was without precedent in the three months since the first confirmed Covid-19 death in the U.S. -- a resident of Santa Clara County, home to Tesla’s headquarters and neighbor to its factory in Fremont, California. As the nation’s death toll approaches 80,000, Musk has emerged as arguably the loudest voice in corporate America advocating for the economy to reopen.“I’m not messing around,” the 48-year-old billionaire tweeted after Tesla filed its lawsuit against Alameda County. “Absurd & medically irrational behavior in violation of constitutional civil liberties, moreover by *unelected* county officials with no accountability, needs to stop.”Tesla shares fell 2.7% as of 7:20 a.m. Monday in New York, before the start of regular trading. The stock has soared 96% this year.Auto RestartTesla does have a case to make for being unexceptional within the auto industry. Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Toyota Motor Corp. and others also have set dates for restarting their operations, only to then call off those plans due to shutdown orders.Daimler AG has reopened a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama, as has its German peer BMW AG in South Carolina. Toyota and Honda Motor Co. will resume work at U.S. factories this week, followed by General Motors Co., Ford and Fiat Chrysler on May 18.But no carmaker other than Tesla has publicly attacked local health officials or threatened states over shelter-in-place measures that virtually wiped out North American vehicle production for more than a month.Read more: What you need to know about the U.S. auto industry’s restartDuring GM’s first-quarter earnings call on May 6, CEO Mary Barra said the automaker was having “very constructive” conversations with government officials.“We’re in a good position as we talk to country leaders and state leaders,” she said. “We’ll continue to have dialogue with our unions, as well as with the government leaders, to do the right thing.”Bay Area ExceptionTesla’s handling of the health crisis also has been unique among companies in the San Francisco Bay area. Ajay Shah, the CEO of Smart Global Holdings Inc., last month credited Alameda for allowing the manufacturer of memory modules to continue operating.“We’ve had discussions with the Alameda County health authorities and show them exactly what we’re doing and they’ve been satisfied with it,” Shah said on an April 7 earnings call.Earlier: Tesla’s drive to stay open irked officials who saw health riskFaceboook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose staff can more easily work from home than Musk’s manufacturing employees, has voiced his concern about lifting stay-home measures too soon.“While there are massive societal costs from the current shelter in place restrictions, I worry that reopening certain places too quickly before infection rates have been reduced to very minimal levels will almost guarantee future outbreaks and worse longer-term health and economic outcomes,” Zuckerberg said during Facebook’s April 29 earnings call.Back to WorkOn the same day, Musk called shutdown orders “fascist” and unconstitutional, likening them to forcible imprisonment and saying they were “breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong.” His comments were embraced by some Silicon Valley venture capitalists and political conservatives.Tesla released a 38-page “Return to Work Playbook” late Saturday laying out the safety protocols it will adopt at all of its facilities. While the company will disinfect work areas, enforce social-distancing precautions and provide personal-protective equipment, among other measures, the document doesn’t include any plans to test workers other than by checking their temperatures.Alameda officials have said more testing needs to come online and that Covid-19 case counts need to drop before they’ll feel comfortable moving to the next phase of reopening.Tesla has signaled it may disregard Alameda’s order, saying in a blog post Saturday that it had “started the process of resuming operations.” Several Fremont workers shared text messages with Bloomberg News in which supervisors were calling them back to the factory.“Our employees are excited to get back to work, and we’re doing so with their health and safety in mind,” the company said.(Updates with pre-market trading in the fifth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The 8-series is the automaker’s range-topper. The model that distills everything that BMW holds dear — performance, power, design — you name it. Now add the ‘M’ badge (a sign that shows BMW’s engineers have thrown all their engineering might into making this car even more capable) and the M8 becomes BMW’s halo car. But for some buyers, that’s simply not enough, so BMW turns it up to ‘11’ with the M8 Competition, a trim that includes features like better wheels, the M Competition Package, M Sport exhaust system, special seat belts, and a ‘track’ mode. And that’s the car we’re testing.
German luxury-vehicle maker BMW (OTC: BAMXF) (OTC: BMWYY) said on May 6 that its first-quarter operating profit rose to 1.38 billion euros ($1.49 billion) from 589 million euros a year ago, when its result was dented by a hefty antitrust fine from the European Union. Despite the impact of COVID-19 on BMW's operations around the world in the first quarter, and a 20.6% decline in vehicle deliveries from the first quarter of 2019, the company managed a net profit of 574 million euros for the period, down only slightly from last year. BMW also provided some updated full-year guidance for investors, revised downward for the second time this year.
Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman joins Jen Rogers and Andy Serwer to discuss the possibility of a bailout for the auto industry amid the coronavirus pandemic.
(Bloomberg) -- BMW AG lowered its profit outlook for the year and warned it will have difficulty generating cash as the German carmaker said the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is lasting longer than expected.BMW now sees an earnings before interest and taxes margin for the automotive segment of between 0% and 3%, from 2% to 4% earlier. The company no longer expects to achieve positive free cash flow from car sales this year, Chief Financial Officer Nicolas Peter said Wednesday.BMW is bracing for tough times after carmakers from Ford Motor Co. to Daimler AG forecast falling profit in the past days because of the pandemic. The crisis is hitting BMW and its peers at a sensitive time -- manufacturers are ramping up spending on electric vehicles to meet tougher emissions regulations and need profits from conventional cars to fund those investments.“The situation remains serious,” Chief Executive Officer Oliver Zipse said. “We are keeping a tight rein on inventory levels because liquidity has absolute priority in this situation.”BMW is the last European carmaker to report, and on Wednesday provided more detailed earnings figures after lowering its outlook late Tuesday. Group sales and operating profit climbed in the first quarter because of several negative one-time effects in the previous-year period. BMW’s automotive sales, a key metric watched closely by analysts, fell 6.4% amid showroom closures in March.Car sales won’t return to normal in the coming weeks and the second quarter will be worse than the first three months of the year after group sales fell 44% last month, BMW said. Both Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Volkswagen AG expect to lose money in the period from April through June. In the U.S., General Motors Co. is expected to release earnings later Wednesday.While BMW’s first quarter-performance looks “fairly good,” the current period will mark the trough, said Bankhaus Metzler analyst Juergen Pieper. “A loss is very likely, revenues could be down as much as 25-30%,” he said by email.BMW fell as much as 4.5% in early Frankfurt trading on Wednesday.The carmaker still expects group profit before tax to be “significantly lower” than in 2019, after Chancellor Angela Merkel this week dashed the company’s hopes for immediate auto purchasing subsidies, with the German government deferring a decision until June. About 30,000 of BMW’s workers are on a state-funded wage support program, and the company said it’s delaying the opening of a new factory in Hungary by a year.BMW is also slashing investments this year, to less than 4 billion euros ($4.3 billion) from 5.7 billion euros previously, Peter said.The carmaker’s new guidance doesn’t reflect a longer recession in major markets, a more severe slowdown in China, tougher competition because of the virus and “possible implications caused by a second wave of infections and associated containment measures,” BMW said.(Updates with free cash flow outlook in second paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
BMW AG <BAMG.DE> expects the coronavirus pandemic to hit demand and earnings throughout this year, prompting the German automaker to cut its profitability forecast for passenger cars following a drop in first-quarter deliveries. "The BMW Group still expects the spread of the coronavirus and the necessary containment measures to seriously dampen demand across all major markets over the entire year," the Munich-based company said on Wednesday. BMW reported a 133% jump in first-quarter profit to 1.38 billion euros ($1.50 billion).
(Bloomberg) -- Jennifer Morgan broke new ground when she became the first woman to run one of Germany’s top-30 listed companies. Her tenure lasted less than a year.Software giant SAP SE appointed Morgan as co-chief executive officer in October alongside Christian Klein. It was heralded as a sign of progress for male-dominated corporate Germany, where a board member of a public company is more likely to be named Thomas than be a woman. But in the run up to financial results, the company canceled her planned interviews and abruptly announced she’ll be leaving at the end of April. Klein will become the sole CEO.“Germany has a special issue,” Simone Menne, former chief financial officer of Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH said. “There are still male voices saying there are no women in our industries who are capable of being senior leaders.”Menne left her position as CFO of Boehringer in 2017 following conflicts with chief executive officer Hubertus von Baumbach. Before she took the job, Menne had said in an interview that she wanted to run a company in the DAX, the index for the country’s 30 biggest publicly traded companies.But after three stints as CFO, Menne was never able to become CEO. A woman wouldn’t hold that role at one of the largest companies in the country until Morgan’s appointment in 2019. Menne now runs an art gallery and sits on the supervisory boards of BMW and Deutsche Post AG. She called Morgan’s departure “a disaster.”“We maintain our commitment to equal opportunities, for which we are seen as frontrunners. I read some comments that now even advise women not to pursue management careers. This does women in particular a disservice. After all, we should be encouraging them to take on top jobs, not discouraging them!” SAP’s German head of human resources Cawa Younosi said in an emailed response. “In my opinion it is important not to fall into stereotypes, to resist the triggers and not to generalize an individual case.”SAP blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for causing problems with its leadership structure saying the company will now shift to a lone CEO to provide a clearer management arrangement. Co-CEO models are becoming increasingly unpopular at software companies, because they can slow decision making and breed power struggles.Morgan didn’t respond to requests for comment.Read more: Software Companies Abandon Co-CEOs, Exposing the Model’s RisksThe leadership structure was disorganized and, at times, chaotic, a person familiar with the matter said at the time. With Morgan running the business in the U.S. and Klein in Germany, it took longer to get things done because, in certain instances, managers needed sign off from two different CEO offices, this person said, asking not to be named discussing the company’s internal dynamics.Over time, two distinct power centers emerged, the person said. Klein, who was based at the company’s headquarters in Germany also benefited from his close ties to Chairman Hasso Plattner, the person said.Management teams of listed German companies are predominantly male economists from the western side of the country in their mid-fifties, according to a report last year by the AllBright Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to promote diversity among business leaders. In the U.S.’s top 30 companies by market value, about 28% of the board members are female executives, according to the report. In Sweden’s top 30, that figure is about 23%. But in Germany, the DAX has about 15% in this powerful position.Still, the country, which has been run by a female chancellor for the last 15 years, is trying to change.In 2016, Parliament enacted a law that requires 30% of non-executive board members of German-headquartered companies must be women. In German companies, the board is split into a non-executive supervisory board and a management board. The supervisory board holds management accountable and makes decisions about the direction of the company.German families minister Franziska Giffey is proposing to introduce a quota for the executive board for publicly traded companies with more than 2,000 employees and at least four board positions.Janina Kugel, the former chief human resources officer at Siemens AG, said that getting a critical mass of women in top positions is vital to ending stereotypes of female leaders in Germany.“There is generally little openness or experience of diversity in Germany, not just with regards to gender,” said Kugel, who left Siemens in January. “I fear that the crisis is being used as an excuse to go back on issues like diversity.”Germany suffers from structural discrimination that stems from lack of legislation, she said.From a psychological standpoint, being around people from a similar background may make executives feel more secure when a business environment is unstable, said Philine Erfurt Sandhu, a lecturer at the Berlin School of Economics and Law.“Although diversity is needed more than ever for good decision making at the top, I am currently witnessing a reversal in Germany. Business leaders are looking for a sense of certainty among similar peers,” Sandhu said. “John likes to be with Johnny.”(Updates with additional comment from Kugel in 17th paragraph. A previous version of this story corrected data on women board members.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- At the rate the coronavirus is spreading, car companies won’t be making vehicles or big profits for a while. Who’s going to foot their bills in the event of an economic downturn like 2008? A financial crisis-like bailout won’t be a good look.Heading into this slump, carmakers were hardly exercising restraint, splashing out on big, tech-savvy investments and electric vehicles. Many global brands like Ford Motor Co. botched their bets in China, the world’s largest market, and have struggled to keep up there as it weakened.Now, from the U.S. to India, Vietnam and Thailand and elsewhere, auto giants are shutting down production. It means more than turning the lights off. Sales are expected to fall almost 15% this year to fewer than 80 million vehicles, according S&P Global Ratings. In the U.S., the drop may be the biggest since 2009. Even as China tries to get back to work, auto and parts factories will likely run at low capacity.The pandemic is showing up vulnerabilities on balance sheets. Over the past two days, Moody’s Investors Services downgraded auto manufacturers including Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW AG, and put several others on review, including General Motors Co., citing “weaknesses in their credit profiles including their exposure to final consumer demand for light vehicles.” S&P downgraded Ford to junk status and put Toyota on review.The billions of dollars of cash that car companies are sitting on may give investors comfort that contingency plans are in place. But automakers run cash-intensive businesses, paying suppliers and funding operations. Having a cushion helps in tough times, but not for long.Unlike other cash-heavy enterprises, most also run so-called negative working capital, meaning their current liabilities are higher than current assets. A dollar upfront is better than a dollar in a few weeks. The reason they can do this is because they get paid by their dealers before delivery – especially in the U.S, which is a credit-driven market.That’s all good when the cars are selling. But when things turn down, these companies start burning through cash quickly, as my colleague Chris Bryant has written. Pre-virus sales outlooks were already poor. The trouble with Covid-19 is that no one knows how long it will last or when buyers will return. That makes it harder to say how much cash they’ll need, part of the reason some are proactively drawing down their credit lines.In the current gloom, it’s worth looking at how far every dollar of sales goes toward meeting operational expenses and paying down short-term debt, or the ratio of working capital to sales. Companies still have to meet their payables, but inventories aren’t being drained. During the financial crisis a decade ago, Bloomberg Intelligence’s Joel Levington notes the ratio started slightly negative and rose to 5%. If that occurred again, he estimates, an average automaker would need an additional $6.9 billion of capital. With cash needs cropping up across the economy, it’s unclear where that money would come from.The descent can be quick: At the height of the crisis, Japanese automakers in the U.S. ran negative free cash flows of 830 billion yen ($7.7 billion), according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., dropping from close to positive 2 trillion yen. In China, cash flows are highly correlated to profitability. If you’re running losses, working capital will bite. The cascading effect of a cash crunch could run far and wide. Some large Chinese auto parts manufacturers rely on international automakers for 30% to 50% of their business to generate positive operating cash flow. “This could change quickly,” says Jefferies Financial Group Inc. analyst Alexious Lee.Then there’s the debt coming due. Automakers haven’t piled on large amounts except for their financing arms. But, per Levington, as of last week $179 billion of debt had a 30%-plus chance of default. The convulsions in markets will make it more expensive to pay. The likes of Tata Motors Ltd.-owned Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc have seen their bonds trade down to as low as 59 cents on the dollar. Across the sector, more than $100 billion matures this year with almost 40% rated below A, he notes.Financing arms, a big source of problems in 2008, have again become major drivers of operating profits. If China is any indication for how quickly things can sour, defaults on auto loan-backed securities rose sharply last month and prepayments fell to a record low.The position of car giants is now reminiscent of the pre-financial crisis years. When Detroit’s automakers were on the verge of collapse, the U.S. government braved public rebuke and stepped in with $82 billion in various forms to avoid the economic pain of collapse. The bailout remains debated, but one thing is clear: Carmakers will need help this time, too. While Washington’s new $2 trillion stimulus could indirectly benefit the sector, prolonged pain would need more support.Cars may have gotten better since the last crisis, but automakers haven’t readied their balance sheets or operations for one as severe as this is turning out to be.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Anjani Trivedi is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering industrial companies in Asia. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Rosen Law Firm, a global investor rights law firm, continues its investigating potential securities claims on behalf of shareholders of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (OTC: BMWYY) resulting from allegations that BMW may have issued materially misleading business information to the investing public.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Is the coronavirus a temporary shock or will it do lasting damage to the global economy? This question will dictate the severity of the measures companies are taking to cut costs and preserve cash, and determine the shape and effectiveness of government bailouts.The short answer is: companies don’t know yet, because none of them have dealt with a pandemic of this magnitude before. Hence their early assessments of the seriousness of the problem have been quite different to those of their peers; and they’re being revised continually, mostly not for the better.Last week some carmakers still sounded relatively optimistic, pointing to the reopening of dealerships in China and signs that sales there are rebounding as new coronavirus cases slow. BMW AG thinks the improvement in China could serve as a blueprint for what might happen in the rest of the world as governments implement draconian measures to contain the virus. That could explain why the German auto giant still plans to pay its shareholders 1.65 billion euros ($1.8 billion) of dividends. Volvo Cars is planning on a “return to normality” after Easter.While the aircraft maker Airbus SE is scrapping its dividend and has beefed up credit lines, it’s poised to resume partial production at its French and Spanish sites this week and points to signs of recovery in domestic Chinese air traffic. This somewhat reassuring message has been contradicted, however, by Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s chief executive officer, Carsten Spohr, who has warned that when the coronavirus is over “there will be a smaller global economy and that means smaller airlines.” The implication of his message was the German carrier should start preparing now for that lower level of demand.Such divergent views reflect partly how the travel and hospitality sectors will be hit harder by the virus than other parts of the manufacturing world. Customers needing a new car might delay their purchase but they won’t do so indefinitely. Eventually their old vehicle will wear out. In contrast, consumers probably won’t take two summer holidays next year just because they didn’t have one this time. Until the new coronavirus is fully under control, they might not book an overseas leisure trip at all.It’s possible too that some industrial executives (beyond those exposed to travel) are underestimating the difficulty of containing Covid-19, including its impact on demand and supply chains. While Japanese schoolchildren are set to return to class in April, virus cases in Hong Kong have started increasing again. If governments keep having to reimpose quarantines until a vaccine is found — which might take more than a year — a swift rebound could prove illusory.Even if companies can keep their own factories running, the flow of crucial components and systems would be interrupted by further outbreaks or countermeasures. When China quarantined a large part of its population, the rest of the global economy was still humming. But as the U.S. follows Europe in ordering many citizens to stay at home, the impact on consumption and employment will be severe. Germany’s gross domestic product is expected to contract by as much as 5% this year, while the U.S. jobless rate is set to rocket.Much will depend of course on the success of governments in channeling money to vulnerable citizens and businesses, and what form that assistance takes. If companies have to cope with months of negligible revenues, government ownership of large chunks of the economy may become unavoidable. Businesses borrowing more would only worsen corporate solvency issues.Given such acute uncertainty, companies should hope for the best but plan for the worst.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Chris Bryant is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering industrial companies. He previously worked for the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- The car-sharing company Getaround is actively seeking a sale as the coronavirus outbreak has sent demand plunging and left the startup dangerously short on cash, according to people familiar with the matter.The startup, whose backers include SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund, has been one of the two leading companies in the peer-to-peer car-sharing industry, where people can rent out their private vehicles online for hours or days. Investors had valued it at well over $1 billion. Getaround has said it has 5 million users.But travel companies have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic as large swaths of the global population have been ordered to stay mostly indoors. If Getaround cannot find a buyer or an infusion of cash, the startup may consider bankruptcy protection, said one of the people familiar with the matter, all of whom asked not to be identified because the information is private. Other backers of Getaround include Menlo Ventures and Toyota Motor Corp.A spokeswoman for Getaround wrote in an email: “Like many other businesses, we are dealing with the impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak, both in the U.S. and Europe, and we are evaluating the appropriate steps to manage this unprecedented event. This includes the support of our investors.”Economic impacts from the virus have been far-reaching and immediate, and startups have been particularly vulnerable. Many are unprofitable and lack a financial cushion. The trouble among SoftBank’s portfolio of startups has heightened concerns over the conglomerate’s creditworthiness and the value of its investments. Even before the pandemic, SoftBank Group Corp. founder Masayoshi Son faced criticism for pouring billions of dollars into unproven and unprofitable companies. OneWeb, backed by SoftBank Group, is considering bankruptcy, Bloomberg reported Thursday.Getaround and the broader car-sharing industry had been facing challenges even before the pandemic. The number of vehicles on car-sharing networks as of January, about 2.7 million, is dwarfed by the number of ride-hailing drivers, 64.6 million, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Getaround said in January it had dismissed some workers but that it would continue to operate in more than 300 cities and that its revenue was growing sixfold. Last month, a car-sharing network owned by European automakers Daimler AG and BMW AG, called Share Now, stopped operating in North America.This month, Getaround outlined measures it was taking in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, which included waiving cancellation fees and quarantining cars that had been in contact with the coronavirus. Turo Inc., Getaround’s main startup rival, announced similar policies. Both companies acknowledged they’d seen drops in demand.On Thursday, as officials around the U.S. ordered many businesses to close, Getaround said it would keep renting cars. “Our service remains essential to our communities by providing flexible and safe access to transportation, and we are working to ensure it continues to be available during this time,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
While European carmakers like Volkswagen and BMW are already warning a difficult year ahead, there are concerns about sustained economic impacts.
To the annoyance of some shareholders, Bayerische Motoren Werke (ETR:BMW) shares are down a considerable 32% in the...
The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: General Motors, Toyota Motor, Navistar International, AutoZone and BMW AG
General Motors (GM) bets big on EVs with $20 billion investments through 2025. While AutoZone (AZO) delivers earnings beat, Navistar (NAV) delivers dismal quarterly results.
The EV momentum is expected to reach a new level in the coming years with various attractive, long-range and reasonable vehicles set for roll out.
Notably, passenger car sales in China tanked nearly 41% through the first two months of 2020, reflecting the largest sales decline in two decades.