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China Cuts Electric-Car Subsidies, Shares of Top EV Makers Drop

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 3/27/2019 Bloomberg News
a bicycle parked on the side of a building: A BYD Co. E6 electric taxi is charged at the company's charging station in Shenzhen, China.© Bloomberg A BYD Co. E6 electric taxi is charged at the company's charging station in Shenzhen, China.

(Bloomberg) -- China said it’s scaling back subsidies on electric vehicles to encourage local manufacturers to rely on innovation rather than government assistance as the industry matures and costs fall. The cuts were deeper than expected and shares of the country’s top EV makers slid.

The subsidy for pure battery electric cars with driving ranges of 400 kilometers (250 miles) and above will be cut by half, to 25,000 yuan ($3,700) per vehicle from 50,000 yuan, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement Tuesday. To qualify for any subsidy, electric cars need to have a range of at least 250 kilometers, compared with 150 kilometers previously, the ministry said.

The government had warned of its plans to scale back subsidies and phase them out completely after 2020, though it hadn’t given details. While financial support for purchases has fueled the rapid growth of China’s electric-car industry, there are concerns that automakers have become overly reliant on them at the expense of developing new technologies and better vehicles.

Shares of BAIC BluePark New Energy Technology Co., the electric car manufacturing unit of BAIC Motor Corp., fell as much as 3.5 percent today in Shanghai. BYD Co., the country’s top seller of new energy vehicles, dropped as much as 4.2 percent in Hong Kong.

BAIC BluePark said in a statement it may raise vehicle prices going forward amid “certain and even relatively huge” pressure on the industry. BYD issued a statement saying it has made full preparations for adapting to the new circumstances. Manufacturing scale and an edge in technology make the company resistant to risk, it said.

Read More: China Auto Boss Expects Local Electric-Car Subsidies to End

U.S.-listed advance depository receipts for NIO Inc., the maker of ES8 electric sport utility vehicles, plunged as much 5.4 percent to $5.06, the lowest intraday price since the Shanghai-based company’s initial public offering in September.

“While the incumbent OEMs will see some earnings damage, we consider NIO the most vulnerable of all,” Robin Zhu, a Bernstein analyst, wrote in a report Tuesday. “Despite struggling for demand, the company recently indicated it won’t reduce prices to offset lower EV subsidies. Today’s subsidy cuts mean NIO’s cars just got meaningfully more expensive for consumers.”

Worse Than Expected

The finance ministry also urged local governments in China to remove subsidies on purchases of electric vehicles, including buses and trucks, after a three-month grace period starting Tuesday.

When combining the halving of subsidies for EVs with at least 400 kilometers of range with the complete removal of direct incentives from local governments, the total reduction is 67 percent, a more drastic cut than the 40 percent or 50 percent that the market was expecting, according to Patrick Yuan, a Jefferies analyst.

Subsidies have been key to making plug-in hybrids and EVs of companies such as BYD, which is backed by Warren Buffett, more affordable to Chinese consumers and helping the country surpass the U.S. as the world’s biggest market for such vehicles in 2015. On top of what the central government spends, Chinese cities and provinces separately offer incentives to make electric cars more appealing in a country where automakers from Volkswagen AG to Ford Motor Co. are planning to increase EV offerings.

Read More: China Is Said to Weigh Further Cuts in Electric-Car Subsidies

--With assistance from Tian Ying.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Niu Shuping in Beijing at nshuping@bloomberg.net;Yan Zhang in Beijing at yzhang1044@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net, Ville Heiskanen, Jason Clenfield

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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