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Rating Action:

Moody's assigns B1 rating to eircom's proposed notes

15 Oct 2019

Milan, October 15, 2019 -- Moody's Investors Service ("Moody's") has today assigned a B1 rating to the proposed EUR 350 million senior secured notes due 2025, to be issued by eircom Finance Designated Activity, a subsidiary of eircom Holdings (Ireland) Limited ("eir") or the group. The outlook is stable.

Proceeds from this debt issuance will be used to partially repay the existing EUR 1.8 billion term loan due in May 2026 issued by eircom Finco S.a.r.l.

"The refinancing is leverage neutral and will bring some interest savings, supporting free cash flow generation, but could reduce modestly the weighted debt maturity profile," says Ernesto Bisagno, a Moody's VP-Senior Credit Officer and lead analyst for eir.

RATINGS RATIONALE

The B1 rating on the proposed notes is in line with the rating on existing notes, Term Loan B and corporate family rating of B1. The notes are guaranteed by the same entities that guarantee the senior credit facility and are secured over the same collateral, on a pari passu basis, with the senior credit facility.

Moody's notes that the transaction is leverage neutral since proceeds from the senior secured notes issuance will be used to partially repay the existing EUR 1.8 billion term loan, hence not affecting the group's Moodys-adjusted debt/EBITDA of 4.8x as of June 2019. The transaction will support free cash generation over fiscal 2020, as annual interest savings will amount to around EUR 6 million.

While the refinancing could reduce moderately the weighted average life of the debt, the maturity profile of the company remains well extended with no debt repayment due before 2025.

eir's B1 corporate family rating reflects the company's (1) integrated business model and improving network quality; (2) leading position in the fixed-line market as Ireland's incumbent operator, its position as the third-largest operator in the mobile segment and its acquisition of key content that enables it to provide quadruple-play offerings; and (3) significant improvement in leverage and financial flexibility over recent years, driven by stronger cash flow generation, reduced interest expenses and — more recently — a lower IAS pension deficit.

The rating also reflects eir's (1) still moderate yet improving free cash flow (FCF)/net debt and relatively high leverage compared with European incumbents; (2) the more aggressive financial policy signaled by the dividend recapitalisation completed in April 2019 and some weakening in liquidity management; and (3) the highly competitive environment in the Irish market and Ireland's (A2 stable) economic susceptibility to adverse effects from the Brexit uncertainty.

RATIONALE FOR STABLE OUTLOOK

Moody's expects adjusted leverage to improve to 4.6x in fiscal 2021 from 4.8x at June 2019, supported by positive earnings growth and good free cash flow generation. The stable outlook reflects Moody's expectation that eir will continue to make progress on its main key performance indicators by investing in its fibre and mobile networks and executing its convergent strategy. Moody's expects this strategy, together with cost savings, to lead to medium-term EBITDA growth in low-single digits in percentage terms.

WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATING UP/DOWN

Upward pressure on eir's rating would be supported by a continued improvement in its operating performance, and revenue and EBITDA growth, such that the company's adjusted debt/EBITDA declines below 4.25x and retained cash flow/debt remains above 15%, both on a sustained basis. Upward rating pressure would also stem from a significant improvement in its FCF/net debt and a track record of a more conservative financial strategy implemented by shareholders.

Downward pressure on eir's rating could materialise if the company's operating performance weakens, with substantial pressure on its revenue or a significant deterioration in either its margins or main key performance indicators (subscriber growth, ARPUs and market share), leading to weaker-than-expected credit metrics, including adjusted debt/EBITDA trending sustainably above 5.0x, retained cash flow/debt remaining consistently below 10% and negative FCF generation. In addition, the rating could be strained if there were evidence of more aggressive financial policies or a significant deterioration in the company's liquidity.

PRINCIPAL METHODOLOGY

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Telecommunications Service Providers published in January 2017. Please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

COMPANY PROFILE

eircom Holdings (Ireland) Limited is the parent company of eircom limited (eir), an integrated telecommunications provider that offers quad-play bundles, including high-speed broadband, mobile, TV and sports content, over its convergent fixed and mobile networks. eir is the principal provider of fixed-line telecommunications services in Ireland. The group is the third-largest mobile operator in Ireland, with a subscription market share of around 19.8% (excluding mobile broadband and machine-to-machine). eir reported revenue of EUR 1.2 billion and EBITDA of EUR 578 million for the fiscal year ended June 2019.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

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.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

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.

Ernesto Bisagno, CFA
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Italia S.r.l
Corso di Porta Romana 68
Milan 20122
Italy
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

Ivan Palacios
Associate Managing Director
Corporate Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Italia S.r.l
Corso di Porta Romana 68
Milan 20122
Italy
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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