July 24, 2019 / 6:51 AM / a month ago

Aston Martin shares crash on European sales hit

(Reuters) - Aston Martin (AML.L) on Wednesday became the latest auto firm to report a hit to its business from a shaky European economic mood, cutting its 2019 volumes forecast after sales to dealers in the region fell by almost a fifth in the first half.

FILE PHOTO: An Aston Martin logo is displayed at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy/File Photo

The report, which also saw the luxury British carmaker slash up to 40 million pounds ($49.77 million) off its previous investment plans, sent its shares spinning as much as 24% lower in early trade in London.

Aston Martin, which has seen costs rise due to aggressive investment and Brexit provisions, said it now expects annual wholesale volumes to be between 6,300 to 6,500 vehicles, compared with an earlier forecast of 7,100 to 7,300 vehicles.

“We are disappointed that short-term wholesales have fallen short of our original expectations,” Chief Executive Andy Palmer said. “We are today taking decisive action to manage inventory and the Aston Martin Lagonda brands for the long-term.”

A source familiar with the matter said the company would cut vehicle production as a result of lower sales expectations.

The European auto sector is struggling with worsening consumer sentiment as well as concerns over the potential fallout for demand and manufacturing of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Stricter regulations and a move to electric vehicles are also hitting demand globally.

Aston Martin said in May that some of its markets faced a “challenging environment”, and that it was planning accordingly to avoid problems with deliveries.

“The challenging external environment highlighted in May has worsened, as have macro-economic uncertainties,” the company said. “We anticipate that this softness will continue for the remainder of the year and are planning prudently for 2020.”

German peer Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) also said on Wednesday it would intensify cost cuts due to legal risks for diesel-related issues and the cost of replacing Takata airbags.

Elsewhere a source said Japan’s Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T) would expand job cuts to over 10,000 employees.

ASTON VEERS OFF EUROPEAN TRACK

Wednesday’s numbers showed Aston’s wholesale sales volumes in Europe, Middle East and Africa fell 19% year-on-year in the first half, while those in the UK dropped 17%.

U.S. and Asian sales of the company’s cars - made famous by James Bond - continued to surge, with a 54% rise in first-half sales in the Americas making it Aston Martin’s single biggest market.

Shares of the company, which listed on the London Stock Exchange in October last year, had tanked 22.9% to 798.4 pence by 0857 GMT, putting it at the bottom of the FTSE mid-cap index .FTMC.

Including Wednesday’s losses, they have tumbled 58% from their initial public offering (IPO) price of 1,900 pence.

“(The company’s) credibility could be shattered for some time as investors question if they can trust management to do what they said Aston Martin would do at the time of the IPO last October,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

The firm also lowered its forecast for its adjusted EBITDA margin and said it would cut capital expenditure to about 300 million pounds from 320 million-340 million pounds expected earlier.

Half-year results are due next week.

(For a graphic on 'Aston Martin lags Daimler, Volkwagen since Oct. 2018 IPO' click tmsnrt.rs/2y8BPqA)

Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Patrick Graham and Jan Harvey

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