Business news from Ukraine

FITCH RATINGS ASSIGNS KERNEL’S $300 MLN EUROBOND RATING

Fitch Ratings has assigned Kernel Holding S.A.’s new $300 million bond due in 2024 a final senior unsecured rating of ‘BB-‘ with a Recovery Rating of ‘RR4’ (50%).
Fitch said in a report on Thursday that the final rating is in line with the expected rating that Fitch assigned to this bond issue on 30 September 2019 and follows the pricing and receipt of the final documentation, which conform to the information already received.
Fitch said that the new $300 million bond’s ‘BB-‘/’RR4’ rating is aligned with the rating on the outstanding $500 million bond due 2022.
As reported, Kernel last week placed five-year $300 million bonds at 6.5% per annum. The pricing was set at 6.625%, the securities were sold at a price of 99.475% of the face value. The organizers of the placement were ING Bank, JP Morgan.
In January 2017, Kernel placed eurobonds worth $500 million. The maturity date of Kernel’s debut eurobonds was January 31, 2022, and the coupon rate was set at 8.75% per annum.
Kernel is the world’s largest producer and exporter of sunflower oil, the leading producer and supplier of agricultural products from the Black Sea region to world markets.

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FITCH AND S&P UPGRADE STEEL COMPANY METINVEST RATINGS

Fitch Ratings has upgraded Ukrainian integrated steel company Metinvest B.V.’s (Metinvest) Long-Term Local- and Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) and senior unsecured bonds to ‘BB-‘ from ‘B+’. The Outlook is Stable.

“The upgrade follows Ukraine’s Country Ceiling upgrade to ‘B’ from ‘B-‘on 6 September 2019. The IDR of Metinvest remains two notches above the Country Ceiling,” Fitch said in a report.

Fitch said that this happened due to its comfortable hard-currency (HC) external debt service coverage, and also its ‘BB’ category business and financial profiles.

In addition, S&P Global Ratings raised Metinvest’s issuer credit rating and its issue ratings on the existing notes to ‘B’ from ‘B-‘. The Outlook is Stable.

S&P said that the Ukrainian steel maker Metinvest has built a track record of balanced financial policy in the past 18 months, with relatively low gearing and positive free cash flow, supporting an adequate spending between growth and shareholder returns.

The two agencies also assigned preliminary ratings to senior unsecured notes of at least $500 million proposed by Metinvest to issue at once after purchase for cash up to $440 million notes in circulation: Fitch – ‘BB-(EXP),’ and S&P – ‘B.’

“The proposed senior unsecured notes of at least $500 million will smooth the maturity profile and strengthen liquidity,” S&P said.

Fitch expects Metinvest’s HC external debt service cover ratio to be comfortable at above our 1.5x threshold on a 18-month rolling basis, allowing the company’s IDR to remain two notches above Ukraine’s ‘B’ Country Ceiling . The top line of the ratio is mainly comprises substantial export EBITDA, aided by abroad EBITDA and cash. The bottom line of the ratio represents HC debt service, comprising principal repayments and interest payments, which are fairly smooth over 2019-2022. The company faces a $945 million notes maturity in 2023 but this would be addressed by the upcoming notes issue, which will improve HC external debt service coverage for 2023.

Fitch said that since the last rating action in April 2019 we have revised Metinvest’s full-year EBITDA down to slightly above $1.5 billion in both 2019 and 2020 and slightly under $1.5 billion in 2021 and 2022, reflecting sharper-than-previously expected price contraction across the steel value chain.

Fitch said that Metinvest is an important eastern European producer of metal products (8.8 million tonnes in 2018) and iron ore (27.3 million tonnes of concentrate and pellets in 2018), with around 300% self-sufficiency in iron ore but only 40%-45% in coking coal.

“The steel segment’s proximity to Black Sea and Azov Sea ports allows the company to benefit from both cheaper steel exports and seaborne coal imports logistics. The operations are also further integrated into downstream operations in Italy, Bulgaria and the UK. Partial integration into key raw materials and exposure to high value-added products help Metinvest mitigate but not avert steel market volatility,” Fitch said.

Fitch said that the conflict in eastern Ukraine continues to pose risks to day-to-day operations. Metinvest’s exposure to the risks of conflict escalation remains high relative to its EMEA peers, although Fitch admitted that most of its 1H19 EBITDA is generated by its mining assets located substantially farther from the conflict zone.

S&P expects that the company will maintain an adjusted funds from operations (FFO) to debt of 35%-40% in 2019 and 2020, well in the range commensurate with the current ‘B’ rating (20%-40%), with a positive discretionary cash flow (free cash flow after capex and dividends).

“We believe that the current market conditions will have a mixed impact on the company’s results in 2019,” S&P said.

“We expect Metinvest to benefit from the abnormal iron ore and pellet prices. Under our calculations, the EBITDA would need to fall to about $1.1 billion in 2020, compared with $1.5 billion-$1.7 billion in our base case, before witnessing a pressure on the rating,” S&P said.

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FITCH UPGRADES UKRAINE’S LONG-TERM RATINGS TO ‘B’, OUTLOOK POSITIVE

Fitch Ratings has upgraded Ukraine’s Long-Term Foreign- and Local-Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) to ‘B’ from ‘B-‘, the outlooks are positive, according to a report on the rating agency’s website.
“Ukraine has demonstrated timely access to fiscal and external financing, improving macroeconomic stability and declining public indebtedness, while a shortened electoral period has reduced domestic political uncertainty. Expected macroeconomic policy continuity, the new government’s strong stated commitment to structural reforms and engagement with IFIs mean that Fitch expects further improvements in creditworthiness,” the report says.
“President Volodymyr Zelensky’s strong popular support and his party’s control of government and parliament provide the government with a uniquely strong position to move ahead with its reform-minded policy agenda. After a commanding victory in the second round of presidential elections, the president’s party Servant of the People (SOP) obtained control of the Verkhovna Rada (256 out of 450 seats) in snap parliamentary elections (originally scheduled for end October). The recently formed government under Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk includes technocratic, pro-western and reform-minded ministers. Key economic policy makers such as Minister of Finance Oksana Markarova remain in their positions, supporting the continuity of policies underpinning reduced macroeconomic imbalances and improved stability,” Fitch said.
“The new prime minister intends to negotiate a new and longer program with the IMF, possibly an Extended Fund Facility (EFF), in the near term. The high likelihood of continued IMF engagement will facilitate access to official and market financing to meet large sovereign debt repayments in 2020-2021, and serve as an anchor for policies and reforms that could potentially lift growth prospects,” the agency experts stated.
“Prudent fiscal management, stable growth, declining interest rates and moderate exchange rate depreciation pressure will support continued government debt reduction. We expect government debt to decline to 47.9% of GDP (55.8% including guarantees) by end-2019, down almost 20 p.p. from the peak of 69.2% (80.9% including guarantees) in 2016 and below the current 57.5% ‘B’ median, and reach 44.4% by 2021. Government debt dynamics are highly exposed to currency risk as 67% is foreign currency denominated, but greater non-resident participation in the local bond market will help increase the share of local currency debt and extend maturities,” according to the document
“The long-awaited increase in Ukraine’s credit rating was made possible thanks to macroeconomic stabilization, a decrease in government debt and a reduction in political risks. This means that confidence in Ukraine is growing, and the risks associated with our creditworthiness are decreasing. And most importantly, the cost of borrowing will decrease,” Finance Minister of Ukraine Oksana Markarova said.

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FITCH RATINGS AFFIRMS CITY OF KYIV RATING; OUTLOOK STABLE

Fitch Ratings has affirmed the Ukrainian City of Kyiv’s Long-Term Foreign- and Local-Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) at ‘B-‘, Fitch Ratings said in a press release on September 21. Simultaneously Fitch has upgraded Kyiv’s National Long-Term Rating to ‘A(ukr)’ from ‘A-(ukr)’. The Outlooks are Stable.
Fitch said that the upgrade of the National Rating reflects the improvement in Kyiv’s credit strength following the exchange of $101.15 million of the non-restructured part of $250 million LPN due in 2015 for new LPN due in 2022.
Fitch has also assigned PBR Kyiv Finance PLC’s $115.072 million loan participation notes (LPN) due December 2022 a ‘B-‘ rating.
“The issuer is the city’s financial SPV, and the LPN were issued on a limited recourse basis for the sole purpose of financing a loan made to the city. Thus they represent direct, unconditional, unsecured and unsubordinated obligations of Kyiv and at all times rank pari passu with all its unsecured and unsubordinated obligations,” Fitch said.
As was reported, Kyiv’s 2015 eurobonds were included in the perimeter of the debt operation envisaged by the International Monetary Fund’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF). They included two issues of eurobonds: 10-year $250-million eurobonds maturing on November 6, 2015, with a coupon rate of 8% per annum and five-year $300-million eurobonds maturing on July 11, 2016, with a coupon rate of 9.375% per annum.
On November 23, 2015, Kyiv offered bondholders to exchange its eurobonds for sovereign eurobonds of Ukraine falling due in 2019-2020 and state derivative securities. In keeping with the offer, one bond with a nominal value of $1,000 was to be swapped for two sovereign eurobonds maturing in 2019 and 2020 whose face value is $375 each and a rate of 7.75% per annum and state derivatives with a conditional value of $250. Interest accrued on the bonds was to be capitalized and added to the principal amount of new bonds.
As part of a debt restructuring operation, the government of Ukraine on December 18, 2015, allowed the conversion of Kyiv’s debt on 2015 eurobonds worth $117.394 million and 2016 eurobonds worth $233.672 million into state debt.
The restructuring of the 2015 eurobonds was backed by 59.51% of their holders and that of 2016 eurobonds – by 90.9%. According to a source of Bloomberg, the 2015 eurobond offer was rejected by London-based Franklin Templeton Inv Mgmt Ltd., which held 32% of 2015 eurobonds. After that, according to available information, negotiations were held with that creditor.
Kyiv City Council on September 4, 2018 completed the restructuring of its outstanding foreign debt by exchanging eurobonds with a yield of 8% and maturing in 2015 with a total nominal value of $101.149 million for new loan participation notes (LPN) falling due on December 15, 2022, with a yield of 7.5%

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