Fitch downgrades Cemento Tupi's ratings

Fitch downgrades Cemento Tupi's ratings
23 March 2015

Fitch Ratings has downgraded Cimento Tupi SA's (Tupi) ratings as follows: foreign currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to 'CCC' from 'B-'; Local currency IDR to 'CCC' from 'B-'; Senior unsecured notes due 2018 to 'CCC/RR4' from 'B-/RR4'; --Long-term National Rating to 'CCC(bra)' from 'BB+(bra)'.

The downgrade reflects the company's inability to deleverage or improve its liquidity position despite solid growth in sales volumes during 2014, Fitch writes. The rating's agency expects Tupi will have difficulty managing its debt service over the next 6-12 months due to its strained cash position, low cash generating ability, and the weakening operating environment in Brazil that has increased refinancing risk for all Brazilian corporates. Tupi's 'CCC' ratings also reflect its small business position, high leverage and the volatility of its cash flow generation due to the cyclicality of the cement industry.

Key ratings drivers

Deteriorating liquidity
Fitch notes that Tupi's poor liquidity position has been persistent during the last 12 months and prospects are poor for improvement during 2015. The company is reliant on banks willingness to refinance its short term maturities due to its low cash reserves. Given the poor economic conditions in Brazil, Tupi could find itself with restricted access to additional debt or the ability to refinance existing loans which would further stress the company's strained balance sheet. Tupi had cash and equivalents of BRL53m which compared unfavourably to short-term debt of BRL129m as of 30 September 2014. The levels of short-term debt coverage as measured by cash plus free cash flow (FCF)/short-term debt was -0.2x for latest 12 months (LTM) 30 September 2014 compared to 0.0x at 31 December 2013.

Sustained high leverage
Tupi has been unable to decrease its leverage since the completion of its expansionary capex plan in 2013. Net leverage was 7.2x for the LTM period ended 30 September 2014, which compared unfavourably to net leverage of 6.9x at 2013. Fitch believes the company will have a difficult time deleveraging its business during 2015 as increasing cement sales volumes will not generate enough cashflow to significantly change the financial position of the company.

Negative cash flow
Tupi generated cash flow from operations of negative BRL4m for LTM ended 30 September 2014 compared to negative BRL130,000 for 2013 due to working capital needs and lower net income. FCF has been negative for the past three years and Fitch does not expect FCF to turn positive in 2015, hampering Tupi's ability to restore its liquidity base.

Challenging operating environment
Fitch expects cement fundamentals to weaken in Brazil over the next 12 months due to the country's deteriorating economic conditions. While producers with diversified operations are expected to weather the storm, companies with concentrated regional sales volumes could suffer the most due to lack of diversification. Furthermore, potential energy rationing and water restrictions in Brazil would negatively impact cement producers that have limited contingency plans in place. The impact of these restrictions would affect both cement producers capacity utilisation levels and demand from its customers resulting in deteriorating cash flow generation.

Weak business profile
Tupi's small production scale heightens the risk of its exposure to the volatility of the cement industry, Fitch highlights. Tupi had a 2.7 per cent market share in the domestic market and 5.8 per cent of market share in the southwest region during 2013. Tupi has a higher cost structure than the larger integrated Brazilian cement producers due to its small size. The strong credit profile of these conglomerates may allow them to pressure prices, which would negatively affect Tupi's cash flow and ability to service its debt, according to the rating's agency.

No geographic diversification
Tupi's production facilities are concentrated solely in the southeast region of Brazil, with operations in Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. As a result, revenue is concentrated in these regions, with 58 per cent of sales derived from retailers and wholesalers. The lack of geographic diversification limits Tupi's growth potential and also its ability to absorb market share loss from bigger cement players, Fitch notes.

Published under Cement News