Analysis-Corporate Mexico feels heat from global supply chain crunch
By Noe Torres
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – From the auto industry to producers of toilet paper and cement, Mexican companies have been hit hard by bottlenecks in international supply chains, depressing growth prospects for Latin America’s second-largest economy.
Thousands of vehicles have sat on Mexican assembly lines awaiting missing semiconductors, but the impact of raw material shortages has been felt right across the corporate landscape.
Time and again in third quarter reports, companies flagged concerns over the disruptions that are increasingly bleeding into their bottom line in Mexico, an economy built around free trade that depends heavily on international supply chains.
Retailers and car companies expect the phenomenon to eat into traditional pre-Christmas sales, while rising input costs have fanned high inflation, pushing up interest rates even as growth expectations for Mexico have been scaled back.
“You can see the impact everywhere,” said James Salazar, an analyst at bank CI Banco. “The problem is that if we keep seeing a recovery in demand, many companies will be in a jam.”
Logistical bottlenecks have forced automakers, which contribute some 3.4% of Mexican gross domestic product (GDP), to carry out a slew of temporary work stoppages, curbing business.
Lower output crimped third quarter sales at conglomerate CYDSA, a maker of coolants for the auto sector, by 2%. At Vitro, which produces windshields, windows and sunroofs, revenues in its auto business were down 14%.
Manufacturer Nemak, which supplies components for companies such as Audi and Nissan, had to lower its 2021 sales target to $3.82 billion from $3.9 billion previously.
Lack of materials and delays have taken the shine off the recovery many companies had anticipated as the hit they absorbed in lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 scourge wore off.
Mexico’s economy shrank 8.5% last year, its worst performance since the 1930s. Though it is expected to expand about 6% this year, analysts polled by the central bank in October shaved two tenths of a percentage point off their 2021 forecast.
The central bank recently estimated the semiconductor squeeze could knock one percentage point off GDP growth in 2021.
That pain radiates far beyond carmaking, also engulfing global cement giant Cemex, a bellwether for broader demand.
The Monterrey-based firm said in the third quarter international logistics problems and higher costs hit its operating EBITDA – an indicator of profitability – even though sales grew in almost all of its markets..
Cemex Chief Executive Fernando Gonzalez said that due to supply chain disruptions it had reduced 2021 capital expenditure guidance by $100 million to $1.2 billion.
Internet provider Axtel said shortages would knock some $2.5 million off its revenues in the second half of 2021 because delays meant delivery times of four to six weeks had become five or six months, making some projects unfeasible.
Rival America Movil, the company controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim, is also feeling the pinch.
“I think in all the world, in all Latin America … there is lack of handsets,” said Daniel Hajj, America Movil’s CEO.
With Christmas only weeks away, companies’ hopes of lifting sales risks falling foul of a lack of inventories.
Enrique Guijosa, finance chief of El Puerto de Liverpool, one of Mexico’s main department store chains, told analysts he expected shortages in sporting gear because of pandemic-induced shutdowns in countries like Vietnam and China.
Restrictions on goods’ availability have translated into higher prices as companies pass on added costs to consumers. Inflation is now above 6%, double the central bank’s target.
Gruma, a producer of Mexican staple food tortillas, said it had to put up its cornmeal prices, and flagged further potential increases next year.
Kimberly-Clark de Mexico, whose portfolio of brands includes Petalo toilet paper and Kleenex tissues, announced average price increases of 7% that would become fully effective at the end of the first quarter of 2022.
(Reporting by Noe Torres, Editing by Dave Graham and Angus MacSwan)