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Rating Action:

Moody's affirms Pepkor Holdings' ratings: outlook negative

06 Apr 2020

DIFC - Dubai, April 06, 2020 -- Moody's Investors Service, ("Moody's") has affirmed Pepkor Holdings Limited's (Pepkor) Ba3 corporate family rating (CFR), Ba3-PD probability of default rating (PDR), and A3.za corporate family National Scale Rating (NSR). At the same time, Moody's has changed the rating outlook to negative from stable.

RATINGS RATIONALE

RATIONALE FOR NEGATIVE OUTLOOK

The decision to change the outlook to negative from stable reflects Moody's expectations that the spread of the coronavirus will negatively impact the company's cash flow generation at least in the first half of calendar year 2020. It also reflects uncertainty regarding demand and supply chain.

The nationwide lockdown imposed by the South African government will negatively affect revenues, EBITDA and cash flow generation. Moody's believes that Pepkor is particularly vulnerable because of its large store base which are now closed across the country. However, Pepkor's liquidity position is sufficient to meet its financial obligations in the next 12 months. On 9 March 2020, Pepkor issued its first bonds: R800m maturing in 2023 and R206m maturing in 2025.

Moody's regards the coronavirus outbreak as a social risk under its ESG framework, given the substantial implications for public health and safety. The rapid and widening spread of the coronavirus outbreak, deteriorating global economic outlook, falling oil prices, and asset price declines are creating a severe and extensive credit shock across many sectors, regions and markets. The combined credit effects of these developments are unprecedented. The apparel retail sector is one of the sectors most significantly affected by the shock given its sensitivity to consumer demand and sentiment.

Pepkor's ratings reflect the South Africa-based retailer's (1) very strong position in the South African retail market through its Pep and Ackermans clothing and general merchandise stores included in Pepkor's Clothing and General Merchandise segment, which makes up 88% of the group's operating profits; (2) the strong recognition of PEP as a brand amongst budget-conscious consumers with some upside to sales from down trading in periods of pressure on disposable income with growth largely maintained even in up economic cycles where its regular customer base spends more; (3) stable credit metrics over the past three years, including moderate leverage which is likely to increase this year because of the lost cash flows due to store closures; (4) good liquidity profile and conservative financial policies; and (5) protection from online clothing retailers with natural barriers given PEP and Ackermans low prices backed by an extensive and sophisticated sourcing and logistics supply chain that keep cost of doing business low.

The ratings also factor in (1) the expectation of challenging trading conditions in South Africa because of low consumer confidence and rising unemployment which are likely to affect Pepkor's furniture and building materials businesses the most; (2) limited geographical diversification outside of South Africa; (3) the risks related to the build-up and performance of the company's credit books, despite the moderately low credit contribution of 9% of group sales; and (4) the majority ownership by Steinhoff International Holdings N.V. (Steinhoff), a Netherlands incorporated investment holding company, which came under severe financial duress following accounting irregularities announced in December 2017 but which has agreed to a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA) with creditors until 31 December 2021.

FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO AN UPGRADE OR DOWNGRADE OF THE RATINGS:

The ratings are unlikely to be upgraded in the short term. A positive rating action is unlikely to arise until the coronavirus outbreak has been brought under control, store closure restrictions are lifted, and it is evident that consumer sentiment has not materially affected demand for Pepkor's products. Pepkor's rating is also currently constrained due to the uncertainty that is created by Steinhoff's majority shareholding. Steinhoff's liquidity pressures could resurface after the standstill agreement entered into with creditors lapses at the end of 2021. The rating or outlook could benefit from a change in ownership as long as the company continues to perform in line with Moody's expectations while maintaining debt/EBITDA below 3x along with good liquidity and strong market positions.

A rating downgrade is possible if the lock-down in South Africa is further extended posing the risk of a severe loss of cash flows. Downward pressure on Pepkor's rating would also result if (1) gross debt/EBITDA trends above 4x; (2) retained cash flow to net debt were to fall sustainably below 20%; or (3) EBIT/Interest Expense was not maintained above 2.5x. Furthermore, a downgrade could occur if Pepkor creditors' interests were weakened due to Steinhoff interference through its majority shareholding. Any marked deterioration in Pepkor's liquidity profile could also place pressure on the ratings.

PRINCIPAL METHODOLOGY

The 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.

COMPANY PROFILE

Pepkor is South Africa's largest non-grocery retailer and second largest retailer with revenues of ZAR 69.6 billion ($4.75 billion) for its fiscal 2019. The company employs 56,100 staff and is one of South Africa's biggest tenants with over 5,000 stores and 2 million m2 of retail space occupied. Pepkor also has over 300 stores in sub Saharan Africa outside South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). The company's origins date back over 100 years with the company having navigated numerous economic and political cycles throughout South Africa's history.

Pepkor, through its primary offering, caters to the lower end of the market, focusing on the value conscious consumers. PEP, which caters to the discount market, and Ackermans, which caters to the lower middle market, contributes 85% of Pepkor's Clothing and General Merchandise segment revenue while this segment makes up 88% of Pepkor's group operating profit.

Moody's National Scale Credit Ratings (NSRs) are intended as relative measures of creditworthiness among debt issues and issuers within a country, enabling market participants to better differentiate relative risks. NSRs differ from Moody's global scale credit ratings in that they are not globally comparable with the full universe of Moody's rated entities, but only with NSRs for other rated debt issues and issuers within the same country. NSRs are designated by a ".nn" country modifier signifying the relevant country, as in ".za" for South Africa. For further information on Moody's approach to national scale credit ratings, please refer to Moody's Credit rating Methodology published in May 2016 entitled "Mapping National Scale Ratings from Global Scale Ratings". While NSRs have no inherent absolute meaning in terms of default risk or expected loss, a historical probability of default consistent with a given NSR can be inferred from the GSR to which it maps back at that particular point in time. For information on the historical default rates associated with different global scale rating categories over different investment horizons, please see https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1216309.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For 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_1133569.

At least one ESG consideration was material to the credit rating outcome announced and described above.

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.

Lahlou Meksaoui
Asst Vice President - Analyst
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service Middle East Limited
Regulated by the DFSA
Gate Precinct 3, Level 3
P.O. Box 506845
DIFC - Dubai
UAE
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 Middle East Limited
Regulated by the DFSA
Gate Precinct 3, Level 3
P.O. Box 506845
DIFC - Dubai
UAE
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
© 2021 Moody’s Corporation, Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., Moody’s Analytics, Inc. and/or their licensors and affiliates (collectively, “MOODY’S”). All rights reserved.

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