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Rating Action:

Moody's rates Anheuser-Busch senior unsecured USD notes at Baa1; stable

01 Apr 2020

New York, April 01, 2020 -- Moody's Investors Service, ("Moody's") today assigned Baa1 senior unsecured ratings to Anheuser-Busch InBev Worldwide Inc, a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (ABI), for its US dollar bond issue in multiple tranches. The issuer is part of the guarantor group and the notes benefit from the guarantees of ABI and its other guarantor subsidiaries. ABI plans to utilize the net proceeds for general corporate purposes including to bolster liquidity. The rating outlook is stable.

Assignments:

..Issuer: Anheuser-Busch InBev Worldwide Inc

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, Assigned Baa1

RATINGS RATIONALE

ABI's credit profile reflects its position as the world's largest brewer, its wide portfolio of brands at various price points, and leading positions in some of the world's largest and most profitable beer markets. The company has strong margins, excellent liquidity and large, typically stable operating cash flows. The credit profile is weakened by leverage that remains high three years after its October 2016 acquisition of SABMiller PLC. The company's 2018 dividend reset, along with the recent IPO of its Asian business and planned divestiture of its Australian operating subsidiary will allow for more rapid deleveraging going forward. The company expects to apply substantially all of the divestiture proceeds toward debt reduction. The credit profile reflects ABI's exposure to somewhat volatile economies, and declining beer consumption in developed markets such as North America and Europe. The company targets 2x net debt to EBITDA leverage (by its definition) over the longer term. Moody's expects 2020 results to be challenged by the unprecedented effects of the coronavirus. However, Moody's expects the company to remain committed to its deleveraging plans and to make adjustments to sustain debt reduction.

Moody's believes that while the company will be negatively impacted by the extraordinary effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the company has excellent liquidity to support temporary operating volatility. Moody's expects that growth will resume when conditions begin to return to normal. Moody's continues to believe that the company will be able to capitalize on its strong market position to deleverage even if the deleveraging path will be slowed by economic conditions in 2020. ABI's gross debt to EBITDA (using Moody's adjustments) remained high, at around 5.2x at year end 2019, or around 4.7x proforma for the sale of the Australian business that is expected to close in Q2. Moody's had previously said that failure to reduce leverage to below 4.5x by year-end 2020 could result in a downgrade, but now expects leverage will be above that level at around 4.7x at year end. Thus, ABI will remain weakly positioned in its rating category. Nevertheless, ABI has large scale and geographic diversity, strong market positions and profitability, and excellent liquidity, which will allow it to ride out the storm. Moody's believes that the beverage industry will be more resilient than many other sectors, although companies with already high leverage have less flexibility to maneuver in such an environment. Moody's will monitor the actual performance of the company during the year, as well as any actions that management takes, beyond the Australia sale, to facilitate deleveraging.

Environmental, Social and Governance Risk

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. Moody's regards the coronavirus outbreak as a social risk under our ESG framework, given the substantial credit implications of public health and safety. For more information on research on and ratings affected by the coronavirus outbreak, please see www.moodys.com/coronavirus.

ABI's environmental impact remains low and the associated risks are limited. The company has been very active in sustainability efforts and remains focused on reducing its carbon footprint. Environmental considerations are not a material factor in the rating.

ABI monitors its social risks closely, including product quality and safety, clean labeling and messages about alcohol content and responsible consumption. While the alcoholic beverage industry is subject to some risk due to health concerns and the impact of drunk driving, the industry as a whole, and ABI in particular, have made meaningful efforts to disclose the risks and promote moderate consumption of alcoholic beverage products.

ABI's governance is a key credit driver characterized by historically conservative financial targets, offset by a willingness to increase leverage to speculative grade levels for the SAB Miller acquisition. Moody's views the company's willingness to reduce its dividend by half to accelerate deleveraging as an important signal of its intent to restore greater financial flexibility. The company remains committed to reduce leverage to its publicly stated 2x leverage target and capital allocation priorities which are, in order; investing in organic growth, deleveraging, selective M&A and returning cash to shareholders.

The stable outlook reflects Moody's expectations that ABI will complete the sale of its Australian business in the coming months and use the net proceeds for debt repayment. Moody's also assumes that the company will explore any and all options to continue to reduce leverage even as EBITDA is likely to come under pressure as the impact from the virus is felt across its markets.

Factors that would lead to an upgrade or downgrade of the ratings:

To achieve an upgrade, ABI would need to grow earnings and cash flow, and sustain strong profit margins. It would also need to reduce debt to EBITDA leverage to under 4x and improve retained cash flow as a percent of net debt to over 10% (including Moody's adjustments).

The ratings could be downgraded if ABI encounters operational difficulties or if profitability falls. Moody's has previously said that ratings could also be downgraded if debt to EBITDA leverage is not reduced to 4.5x or below by the end of calendar 2020 (including Moody's adjustments). In the wake of the corona virus pandemic, Moody's would tolerate a delay in achieving the 2020 target assuming that the company takes meaningful measures to mitigate operating softness and ensure ongoing progress towards debt reduction and deleveraging. Large shareholder returns or debt funded acquisitions before the company has materially reduced leverage could also lead to a downgrade.

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Alcoholic Beverages Methodology published in February 2020 and available at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1212834. Alternatively, please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, incorporated in Leuven, Belgium, is the world's largest brewing company. ABI has operations in 50 countries worldwide with market leading positions in North America, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Australia and a leadership position in premium beer in China. In Brazil, it operates through its subsidiary Companhia de Bebidas das Americas ("AmBev") (rated Baa3, stable). Annual revenues are approximately $56 billion.

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.

Linda Montag
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

John E. Puchalla, CFA
Associate Managing Director
Corporate Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
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JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376
Client Service: 1 212 553 1653

No Related Data.
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