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LG Electronics Inc. -- Moody's upgrades LG Electronics to Baa2; outlook stable

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Rating Action: Moody's upgrades LG Electronics to Baa2; outlook stableGlobal Credit Research - 19 Feb 2021Hong Kong, February 19, 2021 -- Moody's Investors Service has upgraded the issuer rating of LG Electronics Inc. (LGE) to Baa2 from Baa3. Moody's has also upgraded the senior unsecured rating on LGE's medium-term note program to (P)Baa2 from (P)Baa3.The rating outlook remains stable."The upgrade reflects our expectation that, following a significant improvement in 2020, LGE's financial profile will remain solid over the next 1-2 years, driven by its steady sales and profitability, and the improved operating performance of its 37.9%-owned affiliate LG Display Co., Ltd. (LGD)," says Gloria Tsuen, a Moody's Vice President and Senior Credit Officer.RATINGS RATIONALELGE's Baa2 ratings reflect its well-recognized brand and strong market positions in the global home appliance and TV segments, as well as its healthy balance sheet. At the same time, the ratings take into consideration the lingering weakness in LGE's mobile business and moderate profitability.The ratings also reflect the credit quality of LGE's affiliate LGD and the likelihood of LGE receiving financial support from its parent -- LG Corp -- if necessary, given LGE's high importance to the group and its parent's solid balance sheet and net cash position.LGE's sales were stable in 2020 at KRW63 trillion, while its reported operating margins rose to 5.1% in 2020 from 3.9% in 2019, driven by the company's focus on differentiated and higher-margin products. The improvement also reflects increased demand for home appliance and TV upgrades, and for products with additional functions such as hygiene amid the pandemic.Moody's expects LGE's operating profit will remain steady over the next two years, which, along with its manageable capital spending means that the company's debt levels will gradually decrease.In addition, LGE's earnings and business profile are likely to improve further if the company exits its loss-making mobile business.Moody's expects LGD's financial leverage, after having peaked in 2019 because of large capital spending and weak earnings, to continue to improve in 2021 and 2022 as its total debt remains largely stable while earnings increase. The company's capital spending significantly declined in 2020 and will remain moderate, while its operating profit will continue to improve in the next 12-18 months, driven mainly by a ramp up in the sales of OLED products to TV and smartphone manufacturers, and continued strength in its IT segment.As a result, Moody's expects LGE's leverage (including the pro rata consolidation of LGD) will decrease further to around 2.0x in the next 12-18 months, from 2.3x and 2.9x in 2020 and 2019 respectively. These ratios support LGE's Baa2 ratings.LGE's liquidity remains excellent. Its cash and cash equivalents of around KRW5.9 trillion as of the end of 2020 are more than sufficient to cover its KRW1.2 trillion of short-term debt. The company also has strong access to the domestic funding markets.In terms of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, the ratings take into consideration LGE's prudent financial policy, as evidenced by its moderate dividend payouts and low appetite for M&A activities.FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO AN UPGRADE OR DOWNGRADE OF THE RATINGSThe rating outlook is stable, reflecting Moody's view that the company's profit margins and financial leverage will remain steady over the next 12-18 months.LGE's ratings could be upgraded if (1) the company maintains its reported operating margin above 7%-8%; (2) its adjusted debt/ EBITDA, including the pro rata consolidation of LGD, is maintained below 1.5x; and (3) LGE and LGD maintain adequate balance sheet liquidity.The ratings could be downgraded if LGE's market position weakens as a result of intense competition. Credit metrics indicative of a downgrade include (1) LGE's reported operating margin declining to below 3%-4%, or (2) its adjusted debt/EBITDA, including the pro rata consolidation of LGD, increasing above 3.0x.The principal methodology used in these ratings was Consumer Durables Industry published in April 2017 and available at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1060509. Alternatively, please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.LG Electronics Inc. is a leading consumer electronics company that makes diversified products, including refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, TVs, mobile phones and vehicle components.LG Display Co., Ltd. is a leading manufacturer of thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (LCD) and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels.REGULATORY DISCLOSURESFor further specification of Moody's key rating assumptions and sensitivity analysis, see the sections Methodology Assumptions and Sensitivity to Assumptions in the disclosure form. Moody's Rating Symbols and Definitions can be found at: https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_79004.For ratings issued on a program, series, category/class of debt or security this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series, category/class of debt, security or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this credit rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this credit rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.The ratings have been disclosed to the rated entity or its designated agent(s) and issued with no amendment resulting from that disclosure.These ratings are solicited. Please refer to Moody's Policy for Designating and Assigning Unsolicited Credit Ratings available on its website www.moodys.com.Moody's considers a rated entity or its agent(s) to be participating when it maintains an overall relationship with Moody's. Unless noted in the Regulatory Disclosures as a Non-Participating Entity, the rated entity is participating and the rated entity or its agent(s) generally provides Moody's with information for the purposes of its ratings process. Please refer to www.moodys.com for the Regulatory Disclosures for each credit rating action under the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page and for details of Moody's Policy for Designating Non-Participating Rated Entities.Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.Moody's general principles for assessing environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks in our credit analysis can be found at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1243406.The Global Scale Credit Rating on this Credit Rating Announcement was issued by one of Moody's affiliates outside the EU and is endorsed by Moody's Deutschland GmbH, An der Welle 5, Frankfurt am Main 60322, Germany, in accordance with Art.4 paragraph 3 of the Regulation (EC) No 1060/2009 on Credit Rating Agencies. Further information on the EU endorsement status and on the Moody's office that issued the credit rating is available on www.moodys.com.The Global Scale Credit Rating on this Credit Rating Announcement was issued by one of Moody's affiliates outside the UK and is endorsed by Moody's Investors Service Limited, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5FA under the law applicable to credit rating agencies in the UK. Further information on the UK endorsement status and on the Moody's office that issued the credit rating is available on www.moodys.com.Please see www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody's legal entity that has issued the rating.Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.The first name below is the lead rating analyst for this Credit Rating and the last name below is the person primarily responsible for approving this Credit Rating. 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