Business news from Ukraine

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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