Deeper and wider penetration of the second wave of COVID pandemic into the hinterland, temporary closures of dealerships and higher channel inventory will moderate recovery of two wheelers this fiscal to 10-12% volume growth against earlier estimate of 18-20%, says ratings agency CRISIL. While operating margin will remain stable at 13-14% this fiscal, credit quality too would remain unscathed, the agency adds.
In a report, CRISIL says, "Significantly, this volume growth would come on a low base - after a tumble of 13.2% last fiscal and 17.2% in fiscal 2020. However, overall revenue growth will be higher on account of calibrated price hikes by two-wheeler makers in the last quarter of fiscal 2021, as well as the current fiscal to offset rise in input costs."
"Net-net, credit profiles of two-wheeler makers will remain healthy owing to higher revenues, almost stable operating margins, healthy cash surpluses and strong balance sheets. A CRISIL study of five manufacturers, which account for about 80% of the sale volume of the sector indicates as much," it added.
According to Gautam Shahi, director of CRISIL Ratings, though forecasts of normal monsoons in the impending season bode well for the rural segment, higher rate of COVID-19 infections in rural areas will impact income levels and constrain offtake, for most of the first half of fiscal 2022.
"Moreover, unlike during the first covid wave, channel inventory for the industry was higher at 40-45 days in April 2021 compared to 20-25 days in April 2020 due to BS VI transition. Hence, benefit of channel filling will not be available this fiscal, as the impact of the COVID wave abates from second quarter (Q2) of current fiscal, resulting in lower growth," he added.
Segment-wise, CRISIL says, motorcycles volumes will see higher moderation as 70-75% of these are sold in rural area, compared to scooters’ which is predominantly an urban product. It says, "Amongst domestic two-wheeler segments, growth of rural focused executive and economy motorcycles will remain constrained at 9-11% (see below table) this fiscal. And the premium motorcycles, after last three fiscals of volume decline, is expected to grow at 12-15%, given higher number of new launches and increased focus of two-wheeler makers on premiumisation."
The scooters segment is expected to stage a good recovery this fiscal, registering volume growth of 15-17%, albeit on a relatively low base, supported by faster recovery in urban incomes, continuing preference for personal mobility, and the graded opening up of offices and educational institutes, as vaccination drive gathers pace. This growth, though, is on the back of three consecutive years of volume decline, it added.
Additionally, the ratings agency sees overall two-wheeler export sales volume, which accounts for 17% of industry volume and which de-grew only 3% in fiscal 2021 to grow at 11-13% this fiscal with continued recovery in demand in overseas markets and increase in geographic reach by players.
It says, "Calibrated price hikes, diversification into high-margin premium products, and cost rationalisation efforts will ensure limited impact on profitability for players against a sharp increase in steel and aluminium prices that account for more than half of the total material cost. With pass on of raw material price increases and rationalization of advertising costs, operating margin of players are expected to sustain at similar levels of 13-14%, as seen in fiscal 2021, but about 100 basis points lower compared with fiscal 2020."
Sushant Sarode, associate director of CRISIL Ratings, says, "Credit quality of two-wheeler manufacturers will remain resilient considering strong balance sheets, limited debt, efficient working capital management, robust liquidity of over Rs40,000 crore, and limited need to add more capacity, given low-capacity utilisation over earlier two fiscals."
The pace of vaccination, impact of future covid waves, and consumer behaviour towards personal mobility will remain key monitorables, the ratings agency concludes.