Poll: Automotive industry to suffer again in 2003

Professionals in the turnaround management and corporate renewal industry expect another year of financial and operational difficulties for a variety of industries. Telecommunications, which topped the list of troubled companies in 2002 in the Turnaround Management Association (TMA) Trend Watch poll, also headed the list of industries that respondents believe will continue to struggle in 2003. Asked to pick the industries that suffered the most during 2002, about 60 percent of the respondents to this December 2002 poll named telecommunications followed by manufacturing. Other industries commonly selected as experiencing significant distress during 2002 were technology, airlines/aerospace, e-commerce and transportation."The year 2002 will be remembered for large company Chapter 11 filings. Companies such as WorldCom, Global Crossing, Kmart, US Airways and United Airlines marked the year with restructurings of unprecedented size," said Randall Eisenberg, Certified Turnaround Professional (CTP), the chairman of TMA and senior managing director of FTI Consulting in New York. "With half of the 10 largest bankruptcies in history occurring last year, the professionals in TMA are working on some of the largest assignments of their careers," he said. "We don't expect any significant slowdown in activity."Looking ahead to 2003, Trend Watch poll respondents predicted no relief for the telecommunications industry, the most frequent answer provided for industries anticipated to experience difficulty this year. Retail was next on the list, with manufacturing and automotive close behind. Airlines/aerospace and transportation rounded out the list of industries anticipated to struggle in 2003."Historically, retail shows up frequently when you're looking at industries in distress," said Eisenberg. "The corporate renewal professionals in TMA are well aware that after a disappointing holiday season, retail in 2003 is at greater risk than in 2002. In addition, airlines are aggressively responding to dramatic changes in their industry, and are looking closely at how to make their business models profitable in a very difficult environment."A faltering 2003 economy was predicted by 77 percent of the respondents as the principal cause of these industries' troubled outlooks. In addition, excessive debt, lack of access to capital and changes in the competitive landscape were named by respondents as significant factors that will adversely impact these industries."The continued wariness of the consumer and an economy that clearly is not going to recover as soon as expected will put many companies into crisis circumstances," said John Rizzardi, TMA president and attorney at Cairncross & Hempelmann PS in Seattle. "Consumers will continue to watch for bargains, and they will guard their cash. For example, the continuation of the zero interest financing on new cars and the spirited competition in most markets will make 2003 a very difficult year for many in the new and used car markets." The half-point interest rate reduction in November 2002 apparently did not help struggling companies. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of those answering the Trend Watch poll said it had "very little" or "no impact" on the recovery of the companies with which they work. This approximates the negative response to a 2001 Trend Watch poll on the effect of the 11 interest cuts that year.Poll respondents were optimistic about the recovery of a few industries, however. Most commonly identified were the financial services and followed pharmaceutical/medical industries.The Turnaround Management Association ( www.turnaround.org ) is the only international non-profit association dedicated to corporate renewal and turnaround management. With headquarters in Chicago, TMA's 5,800 members in 31 regional chapters comprise a professional community of turnaround practitioners, attorneys, accountants, investors, lenders, venture capitalists, accountants, appraisers, liquidators, executive recruiters and consultants. Members adhere to a Code of Ethics, and the Certified Turnaround Professional (CTP) program recognizes professional excellence and provides an objective measure of expertise related to workouts, restructurings and corporate renewal.

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