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Vivo Energy Investments B.V. -- Moody's affirms Vivo Energy's Baa3 rating and changes outlook to negative

·16 min read

Rating Action: Moody's affirms Vivo Energy's Baa3 rating and changes outlook to negativeGlobal Credit Research - 15 Feb 2021London, 15 February 2021 -- Moody's Investors Service ("Moody's") has today affirmed the Baa3 long-term issuer rating of Vivo Energy Plc ("Vivo Energy") and affirmed the Baa3 instrument rating assigned to the $350 million guaranteed senior unsecured notes due 2027 issued by Vivo Energy Investments B.V., a wholly owned subsidiary of Vivo Energy. The rating outlook for all ratings has changed to negative from stable."The change of the rating outlook to negative primarily reflects Vivo Energy's increased sovereign risk exposure. This is reflected by the recent change in rating outlook on the Ba1 rating of Morocco, Vivo Energy's largest market, as well as a number of recent negative rating outlooks assigned to other African countries where Vivo operates. This exposes Vivo Energy to increased sovereign risks and greater uncertainty around governments' responses to higher debt burdens and a slowing growth environment triggered by the spread of the coronavirus. " says Dion Bate, a Moody's Vice President -- Senior Analyst and local market analyst. "The affirmation of Vivo Energy's Baa3 rating, however, recognizes the company's broad geographical diversification, a strong financial profile with leverage expected to decrease this year and good liquidity, providing a degree of insulation against sudden market disruptions." adds Mr Bate.RATINGS RATIONALEThe negative rating outlook reflects the weakening sovereign credit quality across Vivo Energy's countries of operation, including Vivo Energy's top three largest markets, namely Morocco (Government of Morocco; Ba1 negative), Kenya (Government of Kenya; B2 negative) and Tunisia (Government of Tunisia; B2 negative). These countries accounted for 43% of volumes sold in 2019. As of 10 February 2021, 11 out of 16 Moody's rated African countries where Vivo Energy operates had a negative rating outlook, signaling a widespread deterioration of sovereign credit quality and heightened business risks for Vivo Energy. While Vivo Energy has a good track record of navigating through the challenges of operating in Africa, the probability of event risks crystallizing are increasing as country ratings move lower.Moody's continues to believe that the company's geographic diversification across 23 African countries is a credit strength and it mitigates significantly the financial impact that unexpected changes to regulatory frameworks or other sovereign driven actions that could be detrimental to Vivo Energy's cash flows. The distribution of petroleum products for retail and industrial use remains essential to the functioning and development of African countries. These considerations are fully reflected in the Baa3 rating despite the mostly sub-investment grade countries that Vivo Energy operates in. However, there are credit linkages between Vivo Energy's rating and the relevant sovereign ratings because of the company's local operations, which are subject to local laws and regulations, and to the risk of currency repatriation, amongst others. Therefore, further deterioration of sovereign credit quality is likely to have an adverse impact on Vivo Energy's rating.The Baa3 issuer rating continues to recognize Vivo Energy's robust business profile, as shown by (1) its limited exposure to petroleum product price risk through arrangements with suppliers to land products at prevailing prices set by regulators; (2) the fact that most of its markets are regulated with absolute margins granted on fuel prices, providing certainty on gross profit margins; (3) the strength of the Shell and Engen brands in Africa; and (4) the critical socioeconomic role that fuel retailers play in African countries. In addition, the Baa3 rating takes into account the company's conservative financial policy (maintaining net debt/ EBITDA below 1.5x) and a good liquidity. This is in combination with low exposure to any single country, helps insulate the business from single market event risks.Moody's expect a stable recovery of fuel volumes following lockdowns across African countries during the second quarter of 2020 and that Vivo Energy's operating and financial performance will continue to improve back to historical levels. For the twelve months to 30 June 2020, gross debt to EBITDA increased to 2.8x from 1.9x in 2019 but is expected to improve to below 2.0x during 2021. While mobility restrictions remain a risk for 2021, Moody's base case assumes mobility restrictions are likely to be less severe than in 2020, leading to more stable volume demand in 2021.Vivo Energy's liquidity is good and supported by a large cash balance of $460 million as of 30 June 2020, of which $240 million is held in offshore accounts. Moody's understands that the company aims to keep around $400 million of gross cash on its balance sheet. In response to COVID-19, the company drew $110 million from the $300 million revolving credit facility (RCF) in the first half of 2020 and deposited it in cash as a precautionary measure. The company has also demonstrated its flexibility to reduce its capital expenditure and to amend its dividend policy to preserve cash. Moody's expects Vivo Energy to have sufficient sources of cash flows in 2021 to meet its working capital requirements; capex of around $175 million and pay dividends in line with its dividend policy.Moody's understand that Vivo Energy has $1.3 billion worth of trade finance lines, of which $323 million are utilised as of 30 June 2020, for working capital purposes to fund fuel purchases within the various countries of operation. These facilities are material in size but Moody's expect them to be only partly utilised in future. As these credit lines are uncommitted Moody's do not consider them as a source of liquidity.FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO AN UPGRADE OR DOWNGRADE OF THE RATINGSVivo Energy's ratings are currently constrained at the Baa3 level by the country risk overlay of its African operating jurisdictions and by the scale of its operating cash flow generation.A stable outlook would be considered in the context of a general stabilization of country-specific rating outlooks across Vivo Energy's markets.Downward pressure on Vivo Energy's rating would result from (1) a deterioration of sovereign ratings especially if related to its largest markets; (2) debt/ EBITDA sustainably above 2.5x; (3) retained cash flow to net debt falling sustainably below 35%; (4) EBIT/interest expense is not maintained above 6.0x; and (5) the group failing to maintain a strong liquidity on a rolling 12-18 month basis.At the same time, the rating could be downgraded if Vivo Energy lost its Shell or Engen licenses.PRINCIPAL METHODOLOGYThe principal methodology used in these ratings was Retail Industry published in May 2018 and available at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1120379. Alternatively, please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.The local market analyst for these ratings is Dion Bate, +971 (423) 795-04.COMPANY PROFILEVivo Energy is a leading retailer and distributor of Shell and Engen-branded fuel and lubricants in Africa. As of 30 June 2020, it had a network of more than 2,200 retail site stations (leading market position on Shell brands, with an average market share of 20%; Engen brands have no. 2 to no. 4 market positions) in 23 African countries for its retail customers and commercial clients in industries such as transportation, mining, aviation, marine, construction and power-generation.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.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.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. Mikhail Shipilov Asst Vice President - Analyst Corporate Finance Group Moody's Investors Service Limited, Russian Branch 7th floor, Four Winds Plaza 21 1st Tverskaya-Yamskaya St. Moscow 125047 Russia JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454 Mario Santangelo Associate Managing Director Corporate Finance Group JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456 Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454 Releasing Office: Moody's Investors Service Ltd. 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