February 6, 2020 / 3:55 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-Russia's Jan car sales rise, but market shrinking despite revenue increase

* Russia's January car sales up 1.8% y/y

* Light automobile sales fell 2.9% in 2019

* Revenues rose 5.6% as premium segment grew to 10% share

* Analysts expect more spending and decreased sales in 2020 (Adds annual sales figures, analyst comment, car market background)

By Gleb Stolyarov

MOSCOW, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Sales of new cars in Russia rose in January compared with a year ago, the Association of European Businesses (AEB) said on Thursday, but analysts forecast a second consecutive year of declining demand even as revenues increase.

Rising prices and falling household incomes have harmed Russia's car market in sales terms, but as the share of premium car sales rises, revenues have increased, a trend analysts expect to continue in 2020.

Russia's car market, once one of Europe's largest, was dealt a hammer blow in 2014 with the imposition of Western sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea, but had weathered the storm well before stalling again in 2019.

Sales of light automobiles in 2019 fell by 2.9% while revenue from their sales increased by 5.6%, analytical agency Autostat told Reuters.

"We see that car prices are rising, but the market is shrinking," said Autostat Deputy CEO Sergei Udalov. "The market in money terms will grow because prices will rise."

The size of Russia's market for light automobiles only returned to pre-sanctions levels in 2018, reaching 2.4 trillion roubles ($37.9 billion). But in dollar terms, the rouble's 2014 crash means the $39 billion market in 2019 equates to just over half of the market's 2013 volume.

Against this gloomy backdrop, spending on cars is set to increase, despite household incomes falling for a fifth consecutive year in 2018. Rosstat, the state statistics service, will publish full data for 2019 later this month.

Monthly fluctuations in car sales have limited impact on the annual picture. January car sales rose 1.8% year-on-year after a 2.3% rise in the previous month, but in October and November sales fell by 5.2% and 6.4% respectively.

In 2020, AEB predicts a 2.1% decline in sales to 1.72 million units, while Autostat sees the decline in light automobile sales at 5-7%.

Over the past five years, rouble prices for light automobiles have grown by 9% a year on average, Autostat data showed.

The premium segment had a 10% market share in 2019, growing by 3% as the mass segment decreased its share.

According to VTB Capital's forecast, Russians' spending on cars will grow to 2.7 trillion roubles this year and almost 3 trillion roubles in 2021. In 2016, the figure was 1.7 trillion roubles.

"If the market falls, then the share of the premium segment may rise, which will mean an increase in average prices," said VTB Capital analyst Vladimir Bespalov. (Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrey Ostroukh and Giles Elgood)

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