Nissan seeks $4.6 billion credit line as coronavirus hammers car demand: sources

TOKYO (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co Ltd 7201.T has requested a $4.6 billion commitment line from major lenders to cushion the impact of the coronavirus pandemic while it seeks to engineer a desperately needed turnaround, people with knowledge of the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: Nissan Motor's logo is pictured at its headquarters in Yokohama, Japan February 13, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

As the virus decimates car demand and disrupts production across the industry, Nissan is particularly vulnerable, still reeling from sharp drops in profits after decades of aggressive expansion as well as management chaos due to the scandal surrounding ousted leader Carlos Ghosn.

Nissan is requesting the 500 billion yen in funding given the possibility the impact of the coronavirus on production and demand could continue for an extended period, one of the people said.

The amount has not been finalised, the second person said. The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

A Nissan spokeswoman said the company had enough cash for its current business operations but the automaker was looking at various options to prepare for a possible crisis. She declined to comment further.

Nissan’s new CEO Makoto Uchida has been tasked with delivering an aggressive recovery plan next month after the automaker’s board deemed an earlier plan by his predecessor to cut 10% of the company’s global work force as insufficient to ensure the company’s survival.

Financial strains have been increasing.

In February, Nissan posted its first quarterly net loss in nearly a decade, and for the year ended March operating profit is expected to plunge 85% to 49 billion yen ($450 million), according to a Refinitiv Smart Estimate. That would be the lowest amount since a loss posted in the year ended March 2009 during the global financial crisis.

As of December, its automotive operations had negative free cash flow of 670.9 billion yen, an increase of nearly 7-fold from a year ago. Net cash for its automotive business stood at 847.5 billion yen, with Nissan having burned through nearly 40% of net cash over the year.

The Nikkei business daily reported Nissan is seeking the commitment line from Mizuho Financial 8411.T and two other major commercial banking groups, as well as from the government-backed Development Bank of Japan (DBJ). Mizuho and DBJ declined to comment.

But even automakers with strong financial positions have sought credit lines to weather the pandemic. Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T last month sought a credit line totalling 1 trillion yen from local banks, sources told Reuters. Toyota declined to comment.

Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu and Maki Shiraki; Additional reporting by Takashi Umekawa and Chris Gallagher; Editing by Edwina Gibbs