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Nov 18, 2019

Linamar CEO sees 'light at the end of the tunnel' despite stock slump

'Starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel': Linamar CEO on auto industry outlook


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The CEO of one of North America’s largest auto parts manufacturers is accentuating the positive despite a steady stream of challenges facing her sector.

Linamar Corp. Chief Executive Officer Linda Hasenfratz told BNN Bloomberg that she can see improvement for the auto sector on the horizon, despite slowing sales, labour unrest and global tariffs slowing the automotive industry.

“I think that 2019 has been a little bit worse than anybody expected, probably in no small part due to the GM strike, which took a lot of units out of production,” Hasenfratz said in an interview Monday, adding that Asian sales have also taken a hit.

“But, the expectation is for things to start to improve next year, and for overall global volumes to be up a bit, and volumes here in North America to be up a little bit as well,” she added. “I do feel like we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel there, which I think is important.”

Hasenfratz said that Linamar has positioned itself well, noting her company has picked up $200 million in business from struggling European parts makers. She called it “the silver lining on the cloud of the downturn.”

Her optimism extends to the trade front, where U.S. President Donald Trump has thrown up hurdles to the industry in his renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and his ongoing trade war with China.

Hasenfratz was cautiously optimistic on greater trade clarity, as weekend meetings between the U.S. and China signaled both sides could be making concessions in hopes of reaching a deal.

“It does feel like there’s a bit of positive momentum building which is great,” Hasenfratz said, noting that it’s still too early to see these developments affect consumer sentiment. “Hopefully we’ll start to see things get resolved and then people can feel a little more comfortable.”

“I do believe that they will get resolved sooner (rather) than later.

Linamar’s shares closed Monday at $45.09, down 48 per cent from their June 2015 closing high of $87.46.

Hasenfratz said that while the shares’ underperformance is frustrating, there is reason for hope in the underlying numbers.

“We’re frustrated by where the share-price is performing,” she said. “I think lot of it is to do with this end-of-cycle (in the auto industry). We’re in the third year of a downturn in North America. Investors don’t like that, and it doesn’t matter how much you’re performing,” she said.

“Even though this is the third year of a downturn, in the last two years, we still managed to pull off double-digit earnings growth.”