EMEA corporate ratings resistant to sanctions against Russia

EMEA corporate ratings resistant to sanctions against Russia

Baku, Azerbaijan, March 31

By Emin Aliyev - Trend:

The vast majority of non-Russian EMEA corporate ratings would be unaffected by sanctions against Russia, Fitch Ratings reported on March 31.

"We believe most companies would find ways to mitigate even the worse-case scenario of a complete halt in their Russian sales and cash flows should the Ukraine crisis result in wide-ranging measures," according to the statement. "They could, for instance, cut dividends and capex, forgo M&A or conserve cash."

Less severe effects, such as higher funding and energy costs, could be weathered in the short-term. However, pressure on credit metrics would rise if political tension persists.

The Fitch-rated non-Russian issuers most at risk are Carlsberg Breweries, Atrium European Real Estate, Metro AG and Uranium One, Fitch said.

"Most vulnerable are the handful of corporates that generate a significant proportion of their revenue or operating profit in Russia," according to the statement. "Carlsberg (BBB/Stable) generates around 20% of its revenue in Russia. Should Carlsberg permanently lose its Russian unit, which we understand is effectively debt-free, gross FFO leverage would increase by up to 1.5x. The overall profile would also deteriorate due to lower diversification and fewer resources for growth, potentially leading to a one-notch downgrade."

The contribution to Carlsberg's consolidated cash flow from Russian operations is also substantial (we estimate it at more than 30% in 2013), although the loss would be partly mitigated by the increasing importance of Asia and the resilience of profits in Western Europe. In a less severe scenario, where the government weakened management's ability to control strategy, Carlsberg could find it harder to tackle the many challenges in the Russian beer sector. We take comfort from its track record of adjusting to adversities in the country and a step-up in these challenges should be manageable at the current rating.

It should be stressed that Carlsberg Group also includes Baltika Brewing Company, having a subsidiary in Azerbaijan since 2009, Baltika-Baku brewery.

Atrium's (BBB-/Stable) exposure to Russia represents 28% of net rental income and 19% of its total asset portfolio by value, but only seven out of 153 properties, according to the statement.

Nonetheless given its low leverage, a downgrade would be unlikely even in an extreme scenario. We believe Atrium's balance sheet management factors in the inherent level of risk in the region, Fitch reported.

Metro's (BBB-/Stable) revenue exposure to Russia is estimated at below 7%, Fitch reported.

"Stripping out Russian operating profits, and assuming Metro would not pay its Russian leases under this scenario, we estimate FFO net leverage could rise by 0.3x-0.4x to around 4.7x," according to the statement. "This is still below our guideline for BBB- of below 5x. If the planned IPO of 25% of Metro Cash and Carry (MCC) Russia were cancelled, leverage would probably only rise 0.1x-0.2x, as the reduction in debt would be partially offset by the loss of EBITDA on any disposal. It would however slow MCC's expansion as the proceeds are earmarked for re-investment in fast-growing countries."

Uranium One (BB-/Stable) generates roughly 40% of its revenue in Russia through off-take agreements with its ultimate parent, state-owned Rosatom, to supply up to 51% of its marketable production at spot prices, Fitch reported.

"This includes up to 100% of attributable production from its Kazakhstan mines," according to the statement. "Losing the Russian cash flows would be detrimental, especially with uranium prices near multi-year lows. However, this is not our base-case scenario as the strong political commitment to peaceful nuclear cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan implicitly covers Uranium One's Kazakh operations."

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