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Rating Action:

MOODY'S ASSIGNS A3 TO GTD EUROBONDS OF HUTCHISON WHAMPOA FINANCE (CI) LIMITED

14 Jul 1997
MOODY'S ASSIGNS A3 TO GTD EUROBONDS OF HUTCHISON WHAMPOA FINANCE (CI) LIMITED New York, 07-14-97 -- Moody's Investors Service has assigned an A3 rating to the senior unsecured notes of Hutchison Whampoa Finance (CI) Limited (HW Finance), based on the unconditional guarantee of Hutchison Whampoa Limited, its parent (Hutchison). The rating reflects the strength of Hutchison's well-diversified portfolio of businesses, its moderate leverage and strong liquidity, the steady strengthening of large profits and cash flows from operations, and the very strong competitive position its major businesses enjoy in their respective markets. The rating also reflects the uncertainty associated with the firm's entrepreneurial culture in its approach to a very dynamic marketplace. In addition, it reflects the subordination to which holders of the notes will be subject, based on the company's corporate structure.
Hutchison's business portfolio encompasses both strong cash flow generators and strong competitors in growth industries in various geographic regions, primarily Hong Kong, China and the United Kingdom. The company owns 77.5% of Hong Kong International Terminals, the world's largest privately owned container terminal operator and the largest port operator in Hong Kong. HIT is also strategically well-positioned to grow with the development of trade passing through the principal ports in southern China. Hutchison also operates the largest port in the United Kingdom, the Port of Felixstowe. It is profitably engaged in the development of primarily commercial and residential properties, both in Hong Kong and China, and enjoys broader access to the growing opportunities in China through partnership in the development of different projects with its majority owner, Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited (Cheung Kong). The company also enjoys substantial stable rental income from its Hong Kong investment properties. Management has demonstrated a shrewd and conservative approach to maintaining an appropriate land bank in the face of fluctuating property prices. The company's wireless telecommunications operations in the U.K. and in Hong Kong, while not expected to be significant contributors to cash flow in the medium term, have achieved momentum and profitability in their pursuit of share of growing markets in Hong Kong and the U.K. Retail operations have expanded from Hong Kong and have achieved or are achieving critical mass in China and other Asian markets, including Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. As they achieve economies of scale, particularly in distribution, Moody's looks for continued growth in profits and cash flows. Infrastructure in China certainly affords significant opportunities for growth and generation of stable returns over the long term, although Moody's expects the regional need for significant investment means that the portfolio as a whole will likely absorb capital, rather than generate cash flows available to bondholders, over the medium term. Finally, after significant asset restructuring and debt reduction, Husky Oil's rising production levels and substantial reserves have improved its outlook for earnings and cash flow; Moody's rates Husky's senior debt Baa3.
The company has achieved these business positions in part through steady organic growth, in part through acquisition, and notably by taking calculated business risks and harvesting profits -- sometimes through partial listings and outright sales. Moody's expects that Hutchison's management will continue its search for profitable investment opportunities, that the dynamic economies and markets in which it operates will continue to generate a broad range of such opportunities, and that Hutchison's selections will continue to reflect an appetite for carefully calculated risks.
In the course of its development process, Hutchison has built up substantial liquidity reserves, in the form of cash and high quality financial investments, amounting to HK$13 billion, or nearly one-third of total debt as of the end of 1996. Moody's expects management's conservative position in maintaining this highly liquid position will continue to support the A3 rating, by reducing moderate (37% debt-to-capital, as of FYE 1996) leverage to more modest adjusted levels (28% as of FYE 1996). Although fluctuations in the Hong Kong property market values affect the equity cushion all property investors enjoy, Moody's does not expect any foreseeable volatility to impair Hutchison's financial strength and flexibility.
The A3 rating also reflects Hutchison's entire dependence, as a holding company, on cash flows upstreamed from its operating subsidiaries. Covenants in the indenture limit somewhat the company's ability to secure assets away from the rated bondholders, but do not limit subsidiary borrowings. Its ability to fulfill its obligations as guarantor of the rated debt, therefore, is subordinate to the claims of any direct creditors to its subsidiaries, who would have first claim on their cash flows.
The securities will be sold in a privately negotiated transaction with registration rights under the Securities Act of 1933. The issue has been designed to permit resale under rule 144A.
Hutchison Whampoa Finance (CI) Limited is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa Limited, its guarantor on the notes. Hutchison Whampoa Limited is incorporated and headquarterd in Hong Kong.

No Related Data.
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