Investors build war chests to buy bonds of distressed European companies

Investors build war chests to buy bonds of distressed European companies

LONDON (Reuters) – Years into a bond market bull-run, investors are banking on a brighter future for funds that buy the debt of financially troubled European companies whose bonds are offering meatier returns because they are more risky

With European economic growth expected to be subdued in 2020, and default rates tipped to rise, investors expect an increase in the number of companies that will struggle to service their debt.

That creates an opportunity: to buy the bonds of a troubled company at a deeply discounted price, and make big profits if the company manages to turn itself around and the bond price recovers.

Private equity groups and asset managers are creating so-called special situation funds to identify suitable targets for these high-risk – and potentially high-reward – bets.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number of stressed and distressed European corporates being screened during our team’s discussions,” said Mark Brown, co-head of special situations in Europe at private equity firm KKR.

“We do think we are late-cycle and, as the fund is focused on deploying capital in a cyclical downturn, having capital ready to go makes sense,” he said.

The appeal of distressed debt is enhanced by the fact that a large chunk of the European bond market is offering yields close to or below zero.

KKR last year started fundraising for a third special situation fund and is seeking $1.5 billion.

Elsewhere, JP Morgan Asset Management launched its first ever special situations fund in November, raising just over $1 billion, while private equity firm CVC raised $1.4 billion for a global special situations fund in June.

PIMCO is also fundraising for a special situations fund, said a person familiar with the matter.

Bond prices show markets beginning to price in increased concern that the most troubled European companies will struggle to fund their debt obligations, providing an opportunity for those who specialize in dealing with such situations.

The ratio of European high-yield bonds trading at a spread of more than 1,000 basis points over their respective government benchmarks— one measure of distressed debt — hit 7% at end-2019 compared to 1.4% a year earlier, JP Morgan data showed.

RIVAL PLAY

In a slowing economy, most investors will have to look at challenging situations if they want to perform, said Amundi high-yield portfolio manager Marina Cohen.

“There are clearly going to be some opportunities in those types of (distressed) situations in the mid-term.”

Recent examples of such plays include Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA.TA), Britain’s Jaguar Land Rover and French supermarket chain Casino (CASP.PA), all of which found themselves in difficult situations earlier last year before rebounding and raising fresh debt.

Recent performance for distressed debt funds has lagged another favored debt play – lending money to help finance mergers and acquisitions via leveraged buyout funds (LBFs).

LBFs generated an internal rate of return of nearly 14% in the second quarter of 2019, according to the latest data available from the investment software provider eFront, compared to 8.5% for distressed debt funds.

But the volume of money flowing into distressed debt suggests investors see improving prospects there.

Assets under management in European distressed debt — which combine unrealized funds from existing investments and “dry powder” for future investments — hit a record $48.5 billion in June, Preqin data showed.

“They (special funds) have been waiting and watching for a few years now, and we may finally be moving towards an environment where this trade becomes viable,” said White & Case European leveraged finance lawyer Jeremy Duffy.

In one recent example, investors rushed into Jaguar Land Rover’s five-year bond offer in November, with demand so strong that the company had to print another seven-year tranche, raising 800 million euros in total. Jaguar – owned by India’s Tata Motors (TAMO.NS) – offered a yield of 5.875% and 6.875% on the tranches, respectively.

Earlier in 2019, the British carmaker was hit by a $4 billion writedown, a slump in China sales and Brexit worries that forced it to look for alternative funding from bond markets.

Adding to the appeal of distressed debt, European Central Bank stimulus has compressed yields across the European bond market to such an extent that volatility is likely to be quite high in a downturn.

“Wobbles within individual companies are triggering some quite severe selloffs,” said Laura Frost at M&G Investments.

“That presents an opportunity for people like us”.

(GRAPHIC – Bond ‘tourists’ added to Aston Martin’s summer travails: here)

U.S. regulator to review recommendation on Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep complaint against Mahindra

U.S. regulator to review recommendation on Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep complaint against Mahindra

DETROIT (Reuters) – A U.S. regulator said it will review part of a recommendation made last fall that India’s Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd infringed upon the intellectual property rights of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Jeep SUV design.

The International Trade Commission (ITC) on Wednesday said it would review an administrative law judge’s initial determination last November that Mahindra’s Roxor off-road utility vehicle infringed on the “trade dress” of FCA’s Jeep. The judge recommended the commission bar entry of Mahindra vehicles or parts that infringe and issue a cease-and-desist order.

Trade dress consists of the unique characteristics that make a product stand apart and is generally accepted as identified with that product by the public. For example, FCA sees Jeep’s grille and round headlights as distinct to the brand.

The commission, which in September 2018 initially opened its investigation, said on Wednesday it is targeting completion of the inquiry by March 20.

If the ITC recommends a form of remedy, the U.S. Trade Representative would have 60 days to approve, disapprove or take no action on that determination.

Mahindra, which previously has called FCA’s claims without merit, on Thursday welcomed the commission’s review.

“We are optimistic that the ITC will in its review conclude that FCA did not establish previously unclaimed U.S. rights in trade dress and that there was no infringement of either trade dress or registered trademarks,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Mahindra said it has launched its model year 2020 Roxor with what it described as “significant styling changes” and said it would make additional changes if the ITC required it.

FCA was unconcerned the commission will overturn the judge’s initial recommendation.

“Review is a part of the commission process,” the Italian-American automaker said in an emailed statement on Thursday. “Based on the facts and law, FCA US remains confident the administrative law judge’s initial determination of violation by Mahindra will be adopted by the commission.”

The Roxor is assembled in Auburn Hills, north of Detroit, by Mahindra’s North American subsidiary.

Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by Jonathan Oatis

Unedited Newswire of Reuters

Fiat Chrysler asks U.S. court to toss out GM racketeering claims: filing

Fiat Chrysler asks U.S. court to toss out GM racketeering claims: filing

Fiat Chrysler’s motion to dismiss GM’s civil racketeering lawsuit was expected. The company has said GM’s lawsuit is baseless and aimed at disrupting the Italian-American automaker’s proposed merger with France’s Peugeot SA (PEUP.PA).

GM general counsel Craig Glidden told reporters in November the FCA-PSA merger had nothing to do with GM’s legal action.

Fiat Chrysler’s arguments were filed on Friday evening in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

In response, GM said it remained confident in the legal underpinnings of its case and will respond in court.

“We are confident in the legal and factual underpinnings of our case, which have already been documented in part through the guilty pleas and admissions of FCA executives made in connection with the government’s ongoing criminal investigation”, GM said in a statement.

GM sued Fiat Chrysler in November charging its rival with bribing officials of the United Auto Workers union in order to gain advantages in 2009 and 2015 labor contracts and have the UAW withhold those terms from GM. Fiat Chrysler’s now deceased Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne sat “at the center” of the schemes, GM charged in its lawsuit.

In its response Friday, Fiat Chrysler rejected GM’s claim that Marchionne tried to force a merger between GM and FCA by agreeing to labor contracts that favored the UAW.

GM failed to show “why Mr. Marchionne would want to saddle FCA and GM with unfavorable CBAs (collective bargaining agreements) if his ultimate goal was to run the merged company (presumably on a profitable basis).”

GM’s accusations relied in part on revelations from an active federal criminal investigation of corruption within the UAW. That investigation began at Fiat Chrysler but has since spread to past and present UAW officials at GM.

In its motion on Friday, Fiat Chrysler said GM’s lawsuit was “fatally flawed” for several reasons.

The lawsuit was filed after a four-year statute of limitations had expired, Fiat Chrysler argued. GM is not a direct victim of wrongdoing by FCA executives or UAW officials related to labor contracts, and so cannot bring a RICO action, FCA argued in its motion.

The UAW is such a large organization, “the notion that FCA seized control of the UAW by virtue of the alleged prohibited payments is implausible on its face,” the FCA brief stated.

Further, Fiat Chrysler argued that GM’s allegations about corrupt contract negotiations should be heard by the National Labor Relations Board, not by a federal court.

Reporting by Joe White; additional reporting by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Sandra Maler, Diane Craft and Grant McCool

Unedited  Newswire by Reuters
Bloomberg plan would make all new U.S. cars electric by 2035

Bloomberg plan would make all new U.S. cars electric by 2035

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg unveiled a plan on Friday to slash greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by making electric vehicles accessible to even low-income families and improving access to public transit.

Bloomberg, a media billionaire and former mayor of New York City, has long fought to curb emissions, serving recently as a special envoy to the United Nations on climate action.

Other Democratic candidates have included transportation in their climate plans. Bloomberg, who is putting out a suite of climate plans, is the first to issue a specific strategy on transportation, the top U.S. source of greenhouse gases.

 Bloomberg’s plan calls for all new U.S. cars to be electric by 2035, reductions of diesel pollution with electric trucks and buses, improved access to public transit, and the building of high-speed rail.

He wants to offer low and moderate-income communities a “Clean Cars for All” program with rebates for trading in old cars for electric ones.

“We’re looking to turn over the polluting stock faster,” a campaign aide said on condition of anonymity ahead of the plan’s unveiling. The aide said Bloomberg wants to help taxi and ride-share programs to electrify their fleets before 2035.

His plan does not specify where rare earth minerals would come from for the new vehicles.

Bloomberg aims to slash U.S. emissions linked to climate change by 50% by 2030 if he wins the November vote. Cutting emissions from the power sector and buildings are the other major planks of his clean economy plan.

This week Bloomberg, a late entrant into the race, introduced plans to prevent forest fires, directed in part at winning over voters in California, the most populous state, and one of 14 states holding primaries on Super Tuesday, March 3.

While California has struggled to build high-speed rail, another aide said an initial advanced rail project could be less ambitious than the state’s plan, yet still show Americans what many travelers have in other countries. “It might actually be a shorter course,” than current plans in California, he said.

Bloomberg, like other candidates, wants to reverse the policies of Republican President Donald Trump who is slashing rules on environment regulation while boosting output of fossil fuels.

But he is not putting a dollar figure on his climate plans because of the complexity of the issues, a difference from most of the other candidates.

This is an unaltered Newswire from Reuters

“You’re stealing our water”: Germans protest against Tesla gigafactory

“You’re stealing our water”: Germans protest against Tesla gigafactory

BERLIN (Reuters) – Around 250 Germans on Saturday protested in the outskirts of Berlin where electric car startup Tesla is planning to build a gigafactory, saying its construction will endanger water supply and wildlife in the area.

The U.S. carmaker announced plans last November to build its first European car factory in Gruenheide, in the eastern state ofBernd Kutz, a Gruenheide local.

Politicians, unions and industry groups have welcomed the move, saying it will bring jobs to the region, but environmental concerns drove hundreds of locals to the streets on Saturday.

“We are here, we are loud, because Tesla is stealing our water,” protesters called.

Saturday’s protest came after a Brandenburg water association on Thursday warned against “extensive and serious problems with the drinking water supply and wastewater disposal” for the proposed factory.

Anne Bach, a 27-year-old environmental activist, said Tesla’s plans published earlier this month showed it would need more than 300 cubic meters of water per hour which would drain the area’s declining reserves.

“I am not against Tesla … But it’s about the site; in a forest area that is a protected wildlife zone. Is this necessary?” Bach said.

“In such an ecological system like the one here and with the background that climate is changing, I cannot understand why another location was not selected from the beginning,” said Frank Gersdorf, a member of “Citizens’ Initiative Gruenheide against Gigafactory”, a local group that organized Saturday’s protest.

Environmentalist protests in Germany have previously halted and delayed major companies’ plans such RWE’s lignite mining at the Hambach forest, near Cologne, which has become a symbol of the anti-coal protests.

Saturday’s protest, which Gersdorf and Bach said developed spontaneously from a 50-people forest walk demonstration, highlighted the deforestation of around 300 hectares to build the factory and its impact on wildlife, including birds, insects and bats.

People were also protesting against an expected “enormous” increase in traffic on a nearby highway and through the villages.

Next to the protest, on the other side of the street, around 20 people carried banners welcoming Tesla in their village, with children chanting, “We are here, we are loud, because Tesla is building our future.”

Bernd Kutz, a Gruenheide local, said Tesla would bring improvement to the area, create jobs and give chances to young people.

“I am here because I don’t understand those demonstrators who shout and show us the finger,” Kutz said. “Why has it always to be negative?”

Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; editing by Christina Fincher

This is an Unaltered Newswire of Reuters

China’s Great Wall agrees to buy General Motors’ India plant

China’s Great Wall agrees to buy General Motors’ India plant

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Great Wall Motor (601633.SS) has agreed to buy General Motors’ (GM) (GM.N) car plant in India, the companies said on Friday, as the Chinese automaker expands overseas amid slowing domestic demand.

The deal, which is expected to be completed by the second half of 2020, will jumpstart Great Wall’s plans to build and sell cars in India and bring to an end GM’s manufacturing operations in the country.

People aware of the deal told Reuters earlier on Friday that the two companies had agreed on the sale, with one of the sources adding that Great Wall is likely to pay around $250 million to $300 million to acquire the plant.

“The Indian market has great potential, rapid economic growth and a good investment environment. Entering the Indian market is an important step for Great Wall Motors’ global strategy,” Liu Xiangshang, vice president, global strategy at the Chinese automaker said.

Great Wall, one of the biggest sellers of sports-utility vehicles (SUV) in China, plans to enter India with its Haval and electric vehicle brands and will announce detailed plans at the Delhi auto show in February, Liu said in the statement.

Chinese automakers are accelerating plans to build cars in India to combat slowing sales at home and have been encouraged by the initial success of rival SAIC Motor (600104.SS) in the country, sources have told Reuters.Although car sales in India are also stuttering, the market is expected to become the world’s third biggest by 2026, behind China and the United States, according to consultancy LMC Automotive.

However, Fiat Chrysler (FCHA.MI), Ford Motor (F.N) and GM are scaling back in India after battling it out in one of the world’s most competitive markets, which is dominated by smaller, low-cost cars made by Maruti Suzuki (MRTI.NS) and Hyundai Motor (005380.KS).

GM, which stopped selling cars in India at the end of 2017, has already sold its other plant to SAIC, where the Chinese automaker builds cars under its British brand, MG Motor.

Although the American automaker continued to build small cars for export at its plant in Talegaon in Maharashtra state, it has been exploring strategic options for the site, Julian Blissett, senior vice president, GM International Operations said in the statement.

“Our decision to cease production at Talegaon is based on GM’s global strategy and optimization of our manufacturing footprint around the world,” Blissett said, adding that the company will provide support to employees affected by the decision.

Great Wall is expected to upgrade and modify GM’s plant to suit its needs and set up a base for its suppliers, said one of the sources, adding that the automaker expects to begin production within a year.

The plant is expected to have an annual production capacity of about 150,000-160,000 vehicles, the source said.

Reporting by Aditi Shah in New Delhi, additional reporting by Yilei Sun in Beijing; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Shri Navaratnam; Kirsten Donovan

This is an Unaltered Newswire by Reuters
GM to revive Hummer name with electric pickups, SUVs: sources
Global joint venture formally established by Mercedes-Benz & Geely 

Global joint venture formally established by Mercedes-Benz & Geely 

U.S. auto safety agency to investigate fatal Tesla crash in California

U.S. auto safety agency to investigate fatal Tesla crash in California

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said earlier this month it had opened an investigation into a 12th Tesla crash that may be tied to the vehicle’s advanced Autopilot driver assistance system after a Tesla Model 3 rear-ended a parked police car in Connecticut.

NHTSA did not say if autopilot was suspected in Sunday’s crash in Gardena in Los Angeles county.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Los Angeles television station KTLA reported the driver exited the 91 Freeway in Gardena, ran a red light and struck a 2006 Honda Civic, killing its two occupants.

The two people inside the Tesla were hospitalized but did not have life-threatening injuries, KTLA reported, citing Los Angeles police.

Autopilot had been engaged in at least three Tesla vehicles that were involved in fatal U.S. crashes since 2016. The National Transportation Safety Board has criticized Autopilot’s lack of safeguards and said in September in its probe of a 2018 Culver City, California Tesla crash that the system’s design “permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task.”

Tesla and NHTSA both advise drivers that they must keep their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention at all times while using Autopilot. Tesla says Autopilot “enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane,” but does not make the vehicle autonomous.

Some drivers say they are able to keep their hands off the wheel for extended periods when using the system. Last month, U.S. Senator Ed Markey said Tesla should disable Autopilot until it installs new safeguards to prevent drivers from evading system limits that could let them fall asleep.

NHTSA has previously confirmed special crash investigations in a number of Tesla crashes but until earlier this month had not disclosed the total number of crashes under review. NHTSA previously investigated another Tesla crash that it initially suspected of being tied to Autopilot but ruled it out.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool

 Reuters Newswire unaltered by World Auto Forum
Turkey unveils first fully homemade car in $3.7 billion bet on electric

Turkey unveils first fully homemade car in $3.7 billion bet on electric

3 MIN READ

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey unveiled its first fully domestically-produced car on Friday, saying it aimed to eventually produce up to 175,000 a year of the electric vehicle in a project expected to cost 22 billion lira ($3.7 billion) over 13 years.

Erdogan drives a prototype of the electric car, in Gebze, Turkey via AP

The project has been a long-time goal of President Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party as a demonstration of the country’s growing economic power.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, Erdogan said Turkey aimed not only to sell the car domestically but also wanted it to become a global brand, starting with Europe.

“We’re all together witnessing Turkey’s 60-year-old dream become reality,” he said, referring to failed plans in the past to build a fully home-produced car. “When we see this car on roads around the whole world, we will have reached our goal.”

Following his speech, a red SUV model of the car and another grey sedan one were raised onto the stage, sporting the TOGG label of the consortium that is building them.

Erdogan said the charging infrastructure for electric cars would be ready nationwide by 2022.

Turkey is already a big exporter to Europe of cars made domestically by firms such as Ford (F.N), Fiat Chrysler (FCHA.MI), Renault (RENA.PA), Toyota (7203.T) and Hyundai (005380.KS).

The new project, launched in October, will receive state support such as tax breaks, and establish a production facility in the automotive hub of Bursa in northwest Turkey, according to a presidential decision in the country’s Official Gazette.

Five models of the car will be produced, the statement said, adding the government had guaranteed to buy 30,000 of the vehicles by 2035.

Erdogan first revealed plans in November 2017 here to launch a car made entirely in Turkey by 2021.

The consortium, called Turkey’s Automobile Initiative Group (TOGG), was established in mid 2018 by five industrial groups: Anadolu Group, BMC, Kok Group, mobile phone operator Turkcell (TCELL.IS) and Zorlu Holding, the parent of TV maker Vestel (VESTL.IS).

TOGG’s CEO is former Bosch executive Gurcan Karakas and its chief operating officer is Sergio Rocha, former General Motors Korea chief executive. It said it would begin production in 2022 with compact SUVs.

In October, Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) said it had postponed a final decision on whether to build a car plant in Turkey amid international criticism of an October Turkish military operation in Syria.

($1 = 5.9339 liras)

Additional reporting by Ebru Tuncay; Writing by Daren Butler and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Mark Potter

NewsWire of Reuters and Picture by AP not changed or edited by World Auto Forum

Nissan picks Sakamoto as board candidate after Seki’s resignation

Nissan picks Sakamoto as board candidate after Seki’s resignation

TOKYO (Reuters) – Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) has selected executive officer Hideyuki Sakamoto as a candidate for the board of directors, the company said on Friday, following the surprise resignation of vice-chief operating officer Jun Seki earlier this week.

Sakamoto, who was named an executive officer in June and has been an executive vice president since 2014, is responsible for manufacturing and supply chain management at Japan’s No. 2 automaker. Nissan will hold an extraordinary shareholder meeting on Feb. 18, where his appointment will be among proposals submitted for approval, it said in a press release.

The carmaker did not say whether Sakamoto would take on Seki’s responsibilities.

Nissan needs stability as it braces for its worst annual profit in 11 years amid slumping sales in the United States and China, its biggest markets. The company is also working to repair ties with top shareholder and alliance partner Renault SA (RENA.PA), which deteriorated following the ouster of joint chairman Carlos Ghosn a year ago.

Tesla secures $1.29 billion loan from Chinese banks for Shanghai factory

Tesla secures $1.29 billion loan from Chinese banks for Shanghai factory

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc entered into agreements with lenders in China for a secured term loan facility of up to 9 billion yuan ($1.29 billion), according to a regulatory filing on Thursday.

The electric car maker said it has also signed agreements for an unsecured revolving loan facility of up to 2.25 billion yuan, adding that both the loans will be used for its Shanghai car plant. (bit.ly/2tU35dI)

China Construction Bank Corp, Agricultural Bank of China, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China are the lenders, according to the filing.

Besides construction and production at the Shanghai factory, the loan may also be used to repay the 3.5 billion yuan debt due to be repaid on March 4 next year.

The factory, which is Tesla’s first car manufacturing site outside the United States, is the centerpiece of its ambitions to boost sales in the world’s biggest auto market and avoid higher import tariffs imposed on U.S.-made cars.

Reuters reported earlier this week that Tesla and a group of China banks had agreed to a new 10 billion yuan, five-year loan facility for the automaker’s Shanghai car plant, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Reporting by Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

NewsWire of Reuters not changed or edited by World Auto Forum

Dongfeng and PSA extend joint venture despite stake sale to smooth mega-merger

Dongfeng and PSA extend joint venture despite stake sale to smooth mega-merger

BEIJING/PARIS (Reuters) – China’s Dongfeng Motor Group (0489.HK) and Peugeot maker PSA (PEUP.PA) are extending their business cooperation, despite the Chinese company reducing its stake in PSA to help smooth the French carmaker’s merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

Dongfeng said on Thursday it had agreed with PSA to extend the duration of their joint venture Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen Automobiles (DPCA).

Under the deal, the venture could get the rights to PSA’s new brands in China and will benefit from new technologies and intellectual properties, the Chinese company said.

Continue reading “Dongfeng and PSA extend joint venture despite stake sale to smooth mega-merger”

China’s Great Wall revs up for India as rivals hit the brakes

China’s Great Wall revs up for India as rivals hit the brakes

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Chinese automakers Great Wall Motor and Changan Automobile are accelerating plans to build cars in India after the initial success of rival SAIC Motor in one of the world’s biggest markets, three sources said.

Great Wall, one of the biggest sellers of sports-utility vehicles (SUV) in China, expects to secure a production site in the first half of 2020, likely a General Motors plant in Maharashtra, a source familiar with Great Wall’s plans said.

Continue reading “China’s Great Wall revs up for India as rivals hit the brakes”

Mahindra announces top management succession plans

Mahindra announces top management succession plans

Mumbai, 20th December 2019 : Over the next fifteen months, a number of key leaders at Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. will be retiring. In light of that, and in pursuance of the highest standards of corporate governance, over the past one year the Governance, Nomination & Remuneration Committee (GNRC) of the Board has completed a structured and rigorous review of top management succession, which has now been ratified by the Board of Directors. These changes include the following:

Continue reading “Mahindra announces top management succession plans”