China’s Geely Warns of Virus Headwind After 35 Percent 2019 Profit Drop

March 30, 2020 Updated: March 30, 2020

BEIJING—China’s Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. on March 30 said 2020 may be “amongst the most difficult years” in its history, as pressure stemming from the coronavirus pandemic on production and sales is likely to persist in the near future.

The automaker, based in the eastern province of Zhejiang, also said lower sales drove net profit down 35 percent in 2019 when the country’s overall auto market suffered a prolonged slump.

China’s most globally high-profile automaker—due to parent Zhejiang Geely Holding Group’s investments in European manufacturers Volvo Car and Daimler AG—posted profit of 8.19 billion yuan ($1.15 billion).

That compared with the 9.14 billion yuan average of 33 analyst estimates, Refinitiv data showed.

“The recent outbreak of novel coronavirus had caused serious disruption to our supply chain and thus our production levels, meaning additional pressure on our business volume and profitability in 2020,” Geely said in a filing to the Hong Kong exchange.

The current headwind is likely to persist in the near future, making 2020 probably amongst the most difficult years in the group’s history, Geely said.

Revenue fell 9 percent from a year prior to 97.40 billion yuan. Analysts had estimated 99.43 billion yuan.

Geely Automobile sold 1.36 million cars in 2019 and aims to sell 1.4 million cars in 2020.

Industry-wide auto sales fell 8.2 percent last year, pressured by new emission standards and the impact of Sino-U.S. trade tension.

Merger Talks

Geely Automobile and Volvo—which Geely’s parent bought from Ford Motor Co. in 2010—are planning to merge and list in Hong Kong and possibly Stockholm. Volvo dropped a move to list its stock two years ago.

A merger would come as global automakers pursue alliances to respond better to the cost of meeting tougher emission rules, electrification and autonomous driving.

It would also come as the industry worldwide begins to revive sales after governments halted business activity and imposed restrictions on movement to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

By Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh