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Rating Action:

Moody's assigns (P)B1 CFR to Ferroglobe, (P)B3 rating to its Senior Unsecured Notes; stable outlook

01 Feb 2017

London, 01 February 2017 -- Moody's Investors Service ("Moody's") has today assigned a provisional (P)B1 corporate family rating ('CFR') to Ferroglobe PLC ('Ferroglobe'), the company formed via the merger of Ferroatlantica SA ('Ferroatlantica') and Globe Specialty Metals, Inc. ('Globe') completed in December 2015. Concurrently, Moody's has assigned a provisional (P)B3 rating to the $350 million of senior unsecured notes due 2022 to be issued by Ferroglobe and its US subsidiary Globe. The proceeds of the notes will be mainly used to repay the existing indebtedness of both Ferroatlantica and Globe. The outlook on all ratings is stable.

The ratings on the CFR and on the senior unsecured notes are provisional, as they are based on the review of draft documentation and on a targeted capital structure which will be in place only once (i) the unsecured notes are issued for $350m, (ii) the existing senior secured revolving credit facility ('RCF') of $200m is amended and its financial covenants are reset to enable comfortable headroom going forward, and (3) the disposal of the Spanish hydroelectric assets Moody's anticipates to be for over $200m is complete, with proceeds being mainly used to repay indebtedness. Upon completion of all these transactions and after conclusive review of the final documentation, Moody's will assign a definitive CFR and rating to the notes. Definitive ratings may differ from provisional ratings.

RATINGS RATIONALE

The (P)B1 CFR recognizes Ferroglobe's leading position in the global niche silicon metal market, supported by a competitive advantage in terms of (i) scale of its manufacturing base corresponding to c.30% of global silicon metal capacity excluding China, (ii) high degree of operational diversification with 26 facilities across several countries and continents, (iii) balanced geographic presence between Europe (48% of sales) and North America (36%) and (iv) improving average cost position, which has recently moved below the middle percentile of the reference industry cost curve according to CRU by exceeding the cost saving targets set upon completion of the merger. Ferroglobe is also one of the largest suppliers of ferroalloys for the steel industry, with a particularly strong presence in Europe where it is the third largest regional player.

The rating takes into account some of the key weaknesses of Ferroglobe's business profile, in particular: (i) high sensitivity of the company's revenues and operating profits to the volatility of its commodity products-- particularly silicon metal - and raw materials, with limited ability to pass-through input cost increases to customers on a timely basis; (ii) high exposure to the cyclicality of reference aluminium, steel and chemical end user markets; (iii) relevant customer concentration, as the top 10 clients account for c.40% of sales, and some of these are also captive producers of silicon metal; and (iv) high reliance on a single commodity, silicon metal (c. 50% of sales), which is expected to remain under competitive pressure over the next 12 months due to persisting overcapacity on a global basis. Mitigating some of the weaknesses noted above are the company's (i) flexible cost base with c. 70% of total operating costs being variable; (ii) competitive sourcing of key input, electricity, via multi-year agreements in various jurisdictions; (iii) backward integration into coal and quartz, two important raw materials in the manufacturing process of silicon metal; as well as (iv) technical capability to quickly interrupt furnaces at limited cost, based on market conditions and price of electricity, allowing to exploit interruptibility clauses in electricity contracts signed in France and Spain where the company runs several plants. Furthermore, annual and quarterly contracts with some of the largest customers, mainly chemical and steel multinational corporations, allow a good degree of visibility over revenues several quarters ahead.

The rating takes also into account some of the key weaknesses of Ferroglobe's financial profile, in particular the high adjusted gross debt/EBITDA by end of 2016, which Moody's anticipates to be above 8x, mainly resulting from a large EBITDA drop from the 2015 level.

The rating reflects some degree of caution given the limited operational and financial track record of Ferroglobe as a new group which started trading in December 2015 and has yet to file its full annual audited accounts as a new reporting entity. Moody's notes that in the first 9 months since its formation the company achieved $45m of merger related cost synergies and improved working capital by $136m, and is likely to exceed by end of 2016 its original targets of $65m cost savings and $100m minimum working capital release. These achievements have already made the company more resilient in a market environment which has dramatically deteriorated during 2016. The silicon metal industry was particularly weak due to exacerbating oversupply issues and increased competitive pressure from low cost Brazilian and Chinese exporters, which resulted in historical low silicon metal prices by mid-2016. Trading results for the first 9 months of 2016 were weak, but merger-related cost synergies and working capital inflows provided an important uplift. Ferroglobe reported positive EBITDA of c.$45m and slightly positive free cash flows (FCF), in spite of the company incurring c.$60m of capex and distributing c.$40m of dividends over the same period.

The CFR is underpinned by Moody's expectation that the financial profile and liquidity of Ferroglobe will improve over the next 12 to 18 months, from bottom-of-cycle conditions anticipated for full 2016, and be more consistent with the assigned CFR. Such improvement relies on a normalization of market conditions for both silicon metal and ferroalloys after the 2016 bottom, with a gradual improvement in the price of silicon metal, which is the single largest driver of Ferroglobe's operating and financial performance. Moody's assumes that silicon metal prices recover from a bottom of c. $1,800/t in mid-2016 to c.$2,100 over the next 12 to 18 months, which would still be well below the 2012-2015 historical range of $2,400/t to $2,800/t. The projected improvement in operating profitability and credit metrics is also reliant upon the company successfully achieving its targeted cost synergies of $85m by end of 2017 and its targeted capital structure by Q1 2017. The envisaged debt structure, being characterized by much longer average tenor than the existing one (the new notes will refinance debt mostly maturing over the next 18 to 24 months), should allow an adequate financial headroom through the cycle. Under the above terms, Moody's expects that Ferroglobe's EBITDA margin should improve towards a 9% to 10% range (still below the historical pro-forma 15-16% average), from c.5% anticipated for full 2016, and its adjusted debt/EBITDA ratio would also fall towards a 3.0x to 4.0x range, from c.8x anticipated for full 2016, pro-forma for the targeted capital structure and assuming the carve-out of the European hydroelectric assets being disposed.

Main cash flow cover metrics, namely adjusted (CFO-Dividends)/Debt and FCF/Debt, should also achieve positive levels by end of 2017, from slightly negative levels anticipated for full 2016 due to high capex and dividends paid in the last four quarters not entirely being offset by working capital inflows. Future levels of cash flow cover metrics will be crucially dependent upon future capex requirements and financial policy decisions, particularly with reference to dividends. Moody's expects that the adjusted (CFO-Dividends)/Debt ratio should be positioned in a 10% to 15% range and FCF/Debt in a -5% to +5% range through the cycle, assuming the company targets to maintain or increase dividends from the level of 2016 (c. $50m) and incurs minimum annual capex of c.$65m. Moody's notes that these levels would be relatively weak for a B1 rated company, as they leave little headroom for material underperformance in case of a new severe cyclical downturn. However, the rating also incorporates the agency's expectation that Ferroglobe will continue to focus on operating cash flow generation and proactively manage its liquidity to keep it adequate at all times through the cycle.

OUTLOOK

The stable outlook reflects Moody's expectation that the company will improve its financial profile and liquidity position over the next 12 months on the back of (i) a gradual cyclical recovery in reference market conditions, (ii) full achievement of the targeted cost savings, as well as (iii) a successful implementation of the new capital structure, with proceeds from the contemplated offering of the new notes and from the disposal of hydroelectric assets being used to repay existing debt in full and maintain an adequate liquidity headroom.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING UP/DOWN

While there is limited rating upside potential, Moody's would consider upgrading the rating over time if the company were able to improve its operating profitability and credit metrics, with an EBITDA margin at or above 15%, adjusted gross debt/EBITDA ratio of less than 3.0x, (CFO-Dividends)/Debt at or above 25% on a sustained basis, while maintaining an adequate liquidity position and comfortable headroom under its maintenance financial covenants.

Moody's would consider downgrading the rating if the company were to perform materially below expectations, in case of protracted market downturn preventing to significantly recover operating profitability from the 2016 cyclical bottom level, and/or in case of a more aggressive than anticipated financial policy contemplating special distributions to shareholders or large debt-financed acquisitions. In particular, a downgrade could be triggered by an adjusted gross debt/EBITDA ratio exceeding 4.5x on a sustained basis, a (CFO-Dividends)/Debt ratio below 10%, and/or materially weakened liquidity and reduced headroom under the financial maintenance covenants. Negative rating pressure would also immediately develop should the company fail to achieve its targeted capital structure by Q1 2017 as currently envisaged. Negative rating pressure could also be triggered by new large greenfield projects being started, if these are debt funded and free cash flows and credit metrics materially weaken as a consequence.

STRUCTURAL CONSIDERATIONS

The pro-forma capital structure is composed of the existing amended senior secured guaranteed RCF of $200million (of which c. $125m currently drawn) and of senior unsecured guaranteed notes of $350million. A substantially similar guarantor coverage will be provided on a senior secured basis to the RCF and on a senior unsecured basis to the notes. The guarantor coverage would be provided by material operating subsidiaries representing in aggregate more than 75% of consolidated EBITDA and assets of Ferroglobe.

In accordance to Moody's Loss Given Default (LGD) methodology, the senior unsecured notes are rated (P)B3, two notches below the CFR, owing to their subordinated ranking in the capital structure compared to the RCF. Moody's assumes that a significant portion of the RCF will be utilized at closing and from time to time mainly to fund working capital requirements of the business and maintain an adequate cash headroom at all times.

PRINCIPAL METHODOLOGY

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Global Manufacturing Companies published in July 2014. Please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

Headquartered in London and listed on the Nasdaq (ticker: GSM), Ferroglobe is a leading producer of silicon metal and silicon / manganese alloys. The company has interests in hydropower assets in Europe (mainly in Spain), which will be divested in Q1 2017 after a SPA has been signed at the end of 2016. Ferroglobe operates 26 plants across the world, and derives c.50% of its sales from Europe, 38% from North America and 12% from the rest of the world. The group was formed in December 2015 through the combination of European-based Ferroatlantica, a subsidiary of the Spanish Villar Mir industrial conglomerate, and US-based competitor Globe Specialty Metals. The new group, 55% owned by Grupo Villar Mir (unrated), reported c.$2 bn of pro-forma revenues in 2015.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt 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.

Gianmarco Migliavacca
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Anke N Richter, CFA
Associate Managing Director
Corporate Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
One Canada Square
Canary Wharf
London E14 5FA
United Kingdom
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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