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Nissan seeks $4.6bn credit line as coronavirus hammers car demand, say sources

09 April 2020 - 14:05 By Reuters
Newly manufactured Nissan vehicles sit parked at the company's factory in Sunderland, UK, on Tuesday, on March 24 2020. Nissan suspended production at the plant as the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak inflicts increasingly greater economic pain.
Newly manufactured Nissan vehicles sit parked at the company's factory in Sunderland, UK, on Tuesday, on March 24 2020. Nissan suspended production at the plant as the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak inflicts increasingly greater economic pain.
Image: Ian Forsyth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nissan has requested a $4.6bn (roughly R83bn) 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.

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 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 spokesperson said the company had enough cash for its current business operations but the car maker 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 car maker'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 ¥49bn (roughly R8bn), 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 ¥670.9bn (roughly R111bn), an increase of nearly seven-fold from a year ago. Net cash for its automotive business stood at ¥847.5bn (roughly R140bn), 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 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 car makers with strong financial positions have sought credit lines to weather the pandemic. Toyota last month sought a credit line totalling ¥1-trillion yen (roughly R166bn) from local banks, sources told Reuters. Toyota declined to comment.


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