JLR-Parent Tata Motors' Profit Drops 56%
A file photograph of a production line inside the Chery Jaguar Land Rover plant, in Jiangsu province, ChinaReuters

JLR-parent Tata Motors' stock dropped on 27 May following news that weak Chinese demand for Jaguars and Range Rovers had battered Tata's quarterly profit.

Tata's stock finished 5.12% lower in Mumbai, the scrip's lowest close in 2015, pulled down by news that the firm's net profit for the fourth-quarter ended March fell a worse-than-expected 56%. That forced India's largest car maker by revenue to scrap dividends for the first time since 2002.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) accounts for over 80% of Tata's revenues. Most of the dismal quarterly performance was down to JLR's weakness in China, the firm's biggest market, where automakers are under pressure to cut prices to respond to slower economic growth.

Analysts said Tata Motors too needed to do the same to revive volumes, though the company has no plans yet to follow suit.

James Chao, Asia chief of IHS Automotive, told Reuters: "Cutting prices will most likely bring back volumes. Whether or not they will do it is a matter of timing."

Analysts at Jefferies said in a note that they "remain confident of the imminent turnaround in [Tata's] domestic business", but that a "weak pricing environment in China [was] a concern and likely key to stock performance."

Earlier, JLR boss Ralf Speth told analysts that the firm will not be among the first to cut prices.

China sales

Sales of JLR cars in China dropped 20% in the quarter ended March, when overall car sales in the world's second-largest economy grew 3.9%. By comparison, sales of JLR cars in China jumped 36% in the corresponding quarter a year ago.

JLR cut prices on some of its models in August, prompted by an anti-monopoly investigation by Chinese authorities. But its vehicles are still more expensive than those of German rivals Audi and Mercedes, according to the news agency.

In China, JLR began sales of the locally-made Range Rover Evoque in February but its price is still not low enough. The Evoque starts retailing for CN¥448,000 ($72,256) versus CN¥358,000 for an Audi Q5 and CN¥378,000 for a Mercedes GLK - both of which are also locally made.

Tata also faces challenges in the slow ramp-up of production at its China plant, a joint venture with local partner Chery Automobile. Troubles there have forced some analysts to downgrade their sales outlook for JLR in China.