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Rating Action:

Moody's downgrades LyondellBasell's ratings to Baa2, outlook stable, after Sasol joint venture announcement

05 Oct 2020

New York, October 05, 2020 -- Moody's Investors Service, ("Moody's") downgraded the senior unsecured ratings of LyondellBasell Industries N.V. ("Lyondell") and its subsidiaries to Baa2 from Baa1 and affirmed the company's Prime-2 rating for commercial paper. The ratings were downgraded following the announcement that one of Lyondell's U.S. subsidiaries has entered into an agreement with Sasol Chemicals (USA) LLC, a subsidiary of Sasol Limited, to create a 50/50 joint venture company that would own and operate Sasol's ethylene and polyethylene assets in Lake Charles, Louisiana. For its 50% share, Lyondell will pay Sasol $2 billion and manage production at the site. Lyondell's outlook is stable.

"Despite a very attractive valuation that is meaningfully below replacement cost, Lyondell's credit metrics are expected to be very weak for the prior Baa1 rating through 2022," said John Rogers, Senior Vice President and lead analyst for LyondellBasell Industries N.V. "Additionally, given global capacity additions and weak oil prices over the next year or two, we expect that Lyondell will have difficulty generating meaningful free cash flow and reducing debt, despite the three months of U.S. polyethylene price increases in the third quarter of 2020."

Downgraded:

..Issuer: LyondellBasell Industries N.V.

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, to Baa2 from Baa1

....Gtd Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, to Baa2 from Baa1

..Issuer: LYB International Finance B.V.

....Gtd Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, to Baa2 from Baa1

..Issuer: LYB International Finance II B.V.

....Gtd Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, to Baa2 from Baa1

....Senior Unsecured Shelf, to (P)Baa2 from (P)Baa1

..Issuer: LYB International Finance III, LLC

....Gtd Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, to Baa2 from Baa1

Affirmations:

..Issuer: LyondellBasell Industries N.V.

....Senior Unsecured Commercial Paper, Affirmed P-2

..Issuer: LyondellBasell Investment LLC

....Senior Unsecured Commercial Paper, Affirmed P-2

Outlook Actions:

..Issuer: LyondellBasell Industries N.V.

....Outlook, Changed To Stable From Negative

..Issuer: LYB International Finance B.V.

....Outlook, Changed To Stable From Negative

..Issuer: LYB International Finance II B.V.

....Outlook, Changed To Stable From Negative

..Issuer: LYB International Finance III, LLC

....Outlook, Changed To Stable From Negative

..Issuer: LyondellBasell Investment LLC

....Outlook, Changed To Stable From Negative

RATINGS RATIONALE

The downgrade reflects the expected increase in leverage beyond already stretched metrics in the 2020 pandemic induced trough, as well as the expectation for limited free cash flow generation in 2021 that will challenge the return of metrics to levels that would fully support the Baa1 rating over the next two years. While the coronavirus has adversely impacted 2020, it is also expected to slow the recovery in 2021 and exacerbate the impact of new capacity on the global supply and demand balance keeping margins below levels experienced in 2019. The recent spate of U.S. polyethylene price increases (July to September, with the potential for another increase in October, due to outages related to hurricane Laura), will greatly improve margins in the fourth quarter of 2020. However, once U.S. production returns to more normalized levels, Moody's expects prices and margins to fall, leaving 2021 margins meaningfully below fourth quarter levels.

Moody's believes that this joint venture is an attractive long term investment for Lyondell, relative to new construction, even though it does not have the feedstock flexibility common to Lyondell's other facilities. The Baa2 rating assumes that the U.S. maintains a significant feedstock advantage and that crude oil prices do not remain below $40/bbl for several years. However, returns over the next year or two have a high degree of uncertainty as there is limited visibility on post-pandemic global economic growth, and more importantly polyethylene demand. Demand for packaging applications is expected to remain robust due to shifts in consumer behavior and consumption. A return to pre-pandemic levels for other applications is less certain and may remain somewhat compromised over the next year or two. Additionally, oil prices are expected to remain relatively soft in the $40/bbl range for WTI crude in 2021 giving U.S. producers a limited feedstock advantage relative to producers in Europe and Asia.

Lyondell's Baa2 ratings reflect the strength of its business model, leading market positions in olefins and polyolefins, underlying cash flow generation capability, and very strong liquidity. Moody's also believes that the company's scale and operational diversity will be helpful in managing through an uncertain market environment in the coming quarters. The Baa2 rating also affords management more flexibility in managing its investment strategy over the next several years with capital spending expected to remain near $2 billion and a sizeable dividend of roughly $1.5 billion, which will limit free cash flow generation and debt reduction. At the current time Lyondell's second quarter 2020 gross leverage metric is weak at 3.5x (Net Debt/EBITDA is roughly 3.0x) and Retained Cash Flow/Debt is also weak at 15% (RCF/Net Debt is 18%). By year-end 2020, Moody's expects that financial leverage will rise toward 4.0x (Net Leverage of 3.5x) and RCF/Debt of roughly 11% (RCF/Net Debt of 13%). By the end of 2022, unadjusted pro forma EBITDA is expected to be close to $5.5 billion with leverage of 3.1x (Net Debt/EBITDA of 2.8x) and RCF/Debt of 18% (RCF/Net Debt of 19%). The aforementioned metrics include Moody's standard adjustments, which add roughly $3 billion in additional debt, primarily from pension and operating leases; they also add roughly $370 million to EBITDA.

Lyondell has excellent liquidity supported by a cash and marketable securities balance of $3.2 billion at June 30, 2020, and the expectation that annualized free cash flow will remain positive over the next 12-18 months. The company's secondary liquidity is provided by a $2.5 billion unsecured revolver due June 2022 and a $900 million US accounts receivable facility due July 2021. Additionally, the company had under $500 million outstanding on its $2.5 billion commercial paper program at June 30, 2020 and less than $200 million of other short term debt, primarily precious metals lease financings. The company has $1 billion of long term debt maturing in November 2021 and $2.8 billion maturing in March of 2022.

The stable outlook reflects Moody's belief that credit metrics will return to levels that are more supportive of the Baa2 rating by the end of 2022, but still weak relative to metrics that Moody's would expect the company to average over the commodity cycle.

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

If credit metrics were expected to deteriorate for an extended period of time with adjusted Net Debt/EBITDA sustained above 3.0x and RCF/Net Debt sustained below 20%, Moody's could lower the rating. If Net Debt/EBITDA rises above 4.0x and RCF/Net Debt falls below 10% for more than several quarters in the trough of the cycle, Moody's could also lower the rating. Moody's believes that a rating upgrade is highly unlikely over the next two to three years due to the pending transaction and the belief that management wants to fully utilize the financial flexibility available to them at the Baa2 rating over the next several years. However, Moody's would consider an upgrade if management chooses to establish a more conservative financial policy that would limit the size of future acquisitions, keep Debt/EBITDA sustained below 2.0x and RCF/Debt sustained above 30% over most of the cycle.

ESG CONSIDERATIONS

Environmental, social, and governance factors influence LyondellBasell's credit quality. The company is exposed to environmental and social issues typical for commodity chemical companies. While the company is exposed the environmental remediation costs, they are not considered significant given the company size and profitability. The company is exposed to rising social risks related to waste plastics and future legislation related to recycling of plastics. While bag bans have increased around the world, many have been temporarily suspended during the pandemic. Legislation that mandates minimum recycled content in packaging and consumer goods could have a much more significant negative impact on the industry and the company. Governance-related risks are lower than most chemical companies based on the company's independent board of directors, publicly-traded status and management's track record of conservatism.

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Chemical Industry published in March 2019 and available at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1152388. Alternatively, please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

LyondellBasell Industries N.V. (LYB) is one of the world's largest independent petrochemical companies, producing olefins, polyolefins, propylene oxide and related co-products/derivatives. The company is also a leading licensor and producer of polyolefin technology and catalysts. Additionally, LYB owns a refinery on the Gulf Coast with a capacity of roughly 270 thousand barrels per day. LYB has six business segments: Olefins & Polyolefins - Americas (O&P A), Olefins & Polyolefins - Europe, Asia & Int'l (O&P EAI), Intermediates & Derivatives (I&D), Advanced Polymer Solutions (APS), Refining, and Technology. LYB's typically has revenues of between $30 - 45 billion depending on commodity prices and volumes.

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.

The Global Scale Credit Rating on this Credit Rating Announcement was issued by one of Moody's affiliates outside the EU and is endorsed by Moody's Deutschland GmbH, An der Welle 5, Frankfurt am Main 60322, Germany, in accordance with Art.4 paragraph 3 of the Regulation (EC) No 1060/2009 on Credit Rating Agencies. Further information on the EU endorsement status and on the Moody's office that issued the credit rating is available on www.moodys.com.

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.

John Rogers
Senior Vice President
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

Glenn B. Eckert
Associate Managing Director
Corporate Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

No Related Data.
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