When investors are talk about auto companies, they are usually referring to Ford (NYSE:F) or General Motors (NYSE:GM). However, there is one auto manufacturer that investors almost never talk about: Tata Motors (NYSE:TTM)
Tata is an Indian auto producer, and one of the largest commercial vehicle manufacturers in the world. Prospective investors are getting spooked by the losses in Tata's domestic business, driven by the many low-cost (or even money-losing) vehicles it sells within India. But those investors don't seem to understand that Tata's got an ace up its sleeve: the high-end Jaguar Land Rover division.
A diamond in the haystack
Jaguar Land Rover, as its name implies, designs and produces the British Jaguar and Land Rover auto brands. Seventy-eight percent of Land Rovers are exported to 169 countries around the world, and 70% of Jaguars are exported to 63 countries. The rest are sold within the U.K. -- and sales have been booming.
Jaguar Land Rover vehicles may not be considered ultra-luxury supercars, but they're certainly not cheap. In that middle-of-the-road position, the cars have no comparable peers.
As a result, Jaguar Land Rover vehicles are highly desired and sales are really taking off. For the half year ended Sept. 30 2013, the division's global sales expanded 19.7% year on year. Meanwhile, Ford expects 2013 total new vehicle sales to expand 14.2% within China, 7% within the U.S. but falling 2% within Europe. GM lagged the pack here with sales only expanding 4% during the first half of this year. Although these statics are over different time periods they still highlight the significant variation in the sales figures of these companies.
Furthermore, thanks to a mix of new products and efficient production, Tata's revenue for the first half of this year jumped 26% while profit before tax jumped 42%!
These impressive growth and margin figures, along with the Jaguar Land Rover brand heritage, inspired Julian Sinclair, chief investment officer of Talisman Global Asset Management, to state back in October that the Jaguar Land Rover business alone could be worth around $17 billion. This makes Tata's current market capitalization of $19.6 billion look conservative.
Nonetheless, it looks as if the Jaguar Land Rover business is holding Tata together. For example, for the fiscal second quarter, Tata as a group made a profit of $577 million -- but Jaguar Land Rover contributed $811 million in profit, even thoughTata's domestic business actually lost $130 million.
That means Tata is relatively undervalued considering the gains and value of its luxury Jaguar Land Rover brand, and extremely undervalued compared to U.S. peers.
Putting it all together
So, it would appear that the Jaguar Land Rover brand is worth more than the current market capitalization of Tata. This does imply that Tata is undervalued as investors are planning no value on the rest of the business. That being said, Jaguar Land Rover's valuation is only implied, meaning that, in reality it may be worth much more or much less than the figure above.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some more conventional valuation methods which also show how undervalued Tata is in comparison to both GM and Ford. In particular, let's take a look at the enterprise value, or EV divided by earnings before interest tax amortization and depreciation, or EV/EBITDA.
According to Yahoo! Finance, Tata currently trades at a EV/EBITDA figure of 5.5, while GM and Ford trade at a figure of 7 and 13, respectively. So, even using the simple EV/EBITDA metric we can see how undervalued Tata is.
So all in all, Tata's Jaguar Land Rover business is highly lucrative, pulling the company ahead of its U.S. peers on several metrics. This helps make Tata look cheap on a number of metrics. Even with its Indian operations losing money, the company could still be a better play than its U.S. peers.
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Fool contributor Rupert Hargreaves has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.