India's Tata Motors Q3 net profit halves

India's top vehicle maker Tata Motors said Thursday its net profit had halved -- its first such decline in fifteen months -- as domestic demand for cars slowed and competition increased.

The company said its global operations, including Jaguar and Land Rover, showed that consolidated net profit for the three months to December halved to 16.2 billion rupees ($294 million), from 34.06 billion rupees a year earlier.

This was much lower than the consensus market forecasts of 28 billion rupees.

Revenues of Tata Motors, part of the giant steel-to-software Tata Group, controlled by its new chairman Cyrus Mistry, rose just two percent to 460 billion rupees for the quarter.

"The external environment and economic activity are challenging," Tata Motors's chief financial officer C. Ramakrishnan told reporters.

Its business in India showed a loss of 4.58 billion rupees for the past quarter, from a profit of 1.74 billion rupees a year earlier.

India's once-booming passenger car sector is set to post its worst annual performance in a decade, an industry group said this week, after reporting a 12 percent plunge in auto sales in January.

For the quarter to December, the Jaguar-Land Rover business had a profit of 296 million pounds ($458 million), down 25 percent from 393 million pounds a year earlier, as margins fell and costs to support future growth rose.

The company, which is also the maker of the world's cheapest car, the Nano, bought Jaguar and Land Rover from US Ford Motor Co in 2008 for $2.3 billion as part of plans by Tata Motors to expand its reach beyond Asia.

The deal vaulted Tata Motors from a commercial vehicle and small-car maker to a global player with luxury brands in its range of offerings.