Topics : The company’s net debt, excluding its financial services business, reached Rp 22.2 trillion as of December last year, soaring 70.8 percent yoy.“This was mainly caused by the group’s additional investment in its toll roads and Gojek as well as its capital expenditure in the mining contractor business,” Astra wrote in the statement.Net profit from the conglomerate’s automotive division, which contributed to a half of its business, slipped 1 percent yoy to Rp 8.4 trillion due to lower car sales volume and rising production costs.Astra’s car sales dropped 8 percent to 536,000 units last year as national car sales plunged 11 percent during the same period. Its motorcycle sales, however, slightly increased 3 percent yoy to 4.9 million units versus a 2 percent growth in national sales, the company stated.Indonesia’s car sales, seen as one of the main indicators in household spending, have stagnated at around 1 million units in the last couple of years as economic growth cooled. The country’s economy grew 5.02 percent last year, slower than the 5.17 percent in 2018.Read also: Lower commodity prices hit Isuzu, Daihatsu commercial vehicle salesMeanwhile, lower commodity prices also hit Astra’s performance last year. Its net income from the agribusiness division nosedived 85 percent to Rp 168 billion due to lower palm oil prices.The company’s subsidiary, publicly listed agribusiness company PT Astra Agro Lestari, recorded an 85 percent drop in its profit to Rp 211 billion as palm oil prices plunged 8 percent.The conglomerate’s property business net profit also halved to just Rp 83 billion last year.However, Astra’s financial and infrastructure and logistics businesses anchored the group’s performance by recording solid growth.“The group’s financial services business net profit increased 22 percent to Rp 5.9 trillion, mainly due to a larger financing portfolio and improving loan quality,” the company stated.Astra’s consumer financing business recorded an 8 percent increase in its disbursed financing, while Bank Permata booked Rp 1.5 trillion in net income with a jump of 66 percent yoy.Astra International announced in December 2019 an agreement to sell 44.6 percent of its stakes in Bank Permata to Bangkok Bank. The transaction is expected to conclude before the end of the year.Meanwhile, rising income from operating toll roads boosted the net profit of the conglomerate’s infrastructure and logistics division by 49 percent to Rp 292 billion.Read also: Bangkok Bank to acquire Bank Permata from Astra, Standard Chartered for $2.67b“The year 2020 is still a challenging one amid external macroeconomic uncertainties, competition in the car market and weak commodity prices,” Prijono said. “However, we believe that the group is in a good position to benefit from improving the economic situation.”Koneksi Kapital research head Alfred Nainggolan said Astra’s performance had weakened in the past couple of years as the automotive industry became saturated.“We project [Astra’s] automotive business to stay flat or slightly grow this year,” he said over text message, adding that commodity and heavy machinery businesses could be the conglomerate’s source of growth.He projected Astra’s net profit to grow slightly by 5 to 8 percent this year despite such a challenge. Diversified conglomerate PT Astra International recorded zero growth in its net profit last year, after booking a strong expansion in 2018, as the automotive and agribusiness sectors weakened.The publicly listed company pocketed Rp 21.7 trillion (US$1.57 billion) in net profit in 2019, barely unchanged from its achievement in 2018. Its consolidated revenue slipped 1 percent year-on-year (yoy) to Rp 237.2 trillion as automotive and agribusiness revenues plunged.In 2018, Astra managed to record a 15 percent annual growth in net profit, the company’s data showed. “The group’s 2019 performance was affected by weakened domestic consumption and lower commodity prices but it benefited from improved performance of its financial services business and from its newly acquired gold mine,” Astra president director Prijono Sugiarto said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.Read also: Auto industry poised to recover this year after sales hit brakes in 2019The announcement came after Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) trading had closed. Stocks of the company, traded at the bourse with the code ASII, declined by 1.65 percent on Thursday when the main gauge, the Jakarta Composite Index (JCI), dropped 2.69 percent.The stocks have lost 19.39 percent of their value in the last year.