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Rating Action:

Moody's upgrades SABMiller plc to A3; stable outlook

24 Jun 2015

Approximately USD10.7 billion of rated debt affected

Milan, June 24, 2015 -- Moody's Investor Service has today upgraded the long-term senior unsecured rating of SABMiller plc (SABMiller) and the issuer rating of Foster's Group Pty Limited to A3 from Baa1. The ratings of their medium-term note programme (MTN) and the senior unsecured ratings of their respective guaranteed subsidiaries were also upgraded respectively to (P)A3 and A3. Concurrently, Moody's has also affirmed SABMiller and its guaranteed subsidiaries P-2 short-term ratings, and the national scale ratings of Aa3.za/P-1.za assigned to SABSA Holdings limited. The outlook on all ratings is stable.

"SABMiller's upgrade reflects the strong improvements in the group's credit metrics during the financial year ending March 2015 and our belief that this improvement will be sustainable over the medium to long term, despite the company's ongoing appetite for potential medium to large size acquisitions", says Paolo Leschiutta, a Moody's Vice President -- Senior Credit Officer and lead analyst for SABMiller. "During the financial year ending March 2015, the company reduced its gross reported financial debt by 26%, more than compensating for the negative impact of adverse currency movements on reported profitability (reported EBITA was down 1%). On a preliminary basis, SABMiller's financial leverage (debt to EBITDA) and retained cash flow (RCF) to net debt (both Moody's adjusted) stood respectively at 1.9x and at 28.5%, well within the guidance we set for an upgrade when we changed the outlook to positive in October last year", continued Mr. Leschiutta.

RATINGS RATIONALE

SABMiller's business and financial profiles have improved over the last three years and since the acquisition of the Australian brewer Foster's in 2011, the company has improved its geographic mix, increasing the balance between emerging and developed markets. Despite a degree of reliance on emerging markets (the group derives around 72% of its annual EBITA from developing markets), the company has demonstrated the ability to manage the volatility of these markets in terms of demand, regulatory changes and foreign exchange rates movements. In addition, Moody's recognizes the high medium-to-long term growth potential offered by some of these markets and the diversification within markets that have modest correlation in terms of economic growth. The largest emerging markets for SABMiller include South Africa, Colombia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Peru.

During FYE March 2015 a number of the company's emerging markets grew organically and on a constant currency basis at around mid-to-high single digit rates, which compensated for modest growth across Europe (organic net revenues up by 2%) and North America (flat revenues). Most of the growth, however, was owing to a strong performance from the company's soft beverage business (mainly present in Africa and Latin America), where volumes grew organically by 8% at a group level, compared with flat volumes for beer during the year. On a reported basis, both net produced revenues and EBITA declined 2% and 1% respectively, negatively affected by some currencies devaluation and a strong dollar (the reporting currency of the group).

However, despite the soft trading performance on a USD reported basis, the company succeeded in reducing its gross financial debt from US$17 billion at March 2014 to around US$12.5 billion at March 2015. This was mainly achieved through a number of non-recurring movements, including (1) approximately US$1.3 billion positive impact on currency exchange on the group's non US dollar-denominated debt; (2) usage of around US$1.1 billion of existing cash on balance sheet; and (3) US$971 million of net proceeds from the July 2014 disposal of Tsogo Sun (the hotel and gaming activities in South Africa). The balance of the gross debt reduction was achieved through internally generated free cash flow (around of US$1.7 billion after dividend payments), which during the year also benefitted from the first dividend (since 1994) from SABMiller's associate in China, CR Snow, for approximately US$228 million. Despite the non-recurring nature of some of these movements, Moody's believes that a substantial part of the debt reduction is structural.

Moody's believes that SABMiller's appetite for medium to large acquisition remains high, possibly higher than some of its peers. Today's upgrade reflects the rating agency's expectation that the company's business profile and prudent financial policy could tolerate temporary weakness in key credit metrics as a result of M&A activity. Nonetheless, Moody's expects that SABMiller will maintain on an ongoing basis a Moody's-adjusted debt to EBITDA below 2.5x and an RCF to net debt in the mid 20's in percentage points terms. Moody's expects that the company will move back within this range within 24 months from a large transaction, thus preserving its new A3 rating.

SABMiller's ratings continue to reflect (1) the company's large scale and diversity as the world's second largest brewing company by volume, and third largest by revenues; (2) its international footprint and increased geographic diversification; (3) a good track record of integrating acquisitions and reducing leverage; and (4) the company's strong margins and recurring cash flow from operations. Moody's notes that the strong geographic diversification of SABMiller's markets with no single geographic area accounting for more than 28% of reported net revenues and 35% of reported EBITA (including associates) compensates for the somewhat higher volatility of emerging economies. In addition, the company's stable financial policy and solid liquidity position supports Moody's expectation of continuing improvement in key credits metric for the next 12-18 months. At the same time, the ratings factor in the company's exposure to emerging markets and the still-soft consumer environments in North America and Western Europe.

RATIONALE FOR THE STABLE OUTLOOK

The stable outlook on SABMiller's A3 rating reflects Moody's expectation that the group will (1) continue to manage its exposure to emerging markets by reporting growing profitability; and (2) maintain credit metrics in line with its rating on an ongoing basis, allowing for temporary weakness (i.e., up to 24 months) in case of large acquisitions.

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING - UP/DOWN

Positive pressure on SABMiller's ratings could follow if the company demonstrated its ability to maintain on an ongoing basis (1) financial leverage, measured as debt/EBITDA (as adjusted by Moody's) around 2.0x; and (2) retained cash flow (RCF) to net debt ratio in the high-20s.

Negative pressure on SABMiller's ratings and outlook could arise in case of (1) a large debt-financed acquisition; (2) significant increase in shareholders' return; or (3) sustained growth reduction in key markets, leading to a prolonged deterioration in the company's credit metrics, with financial leverage remaining significantly above 2.5x and an EBITA margin (including its share of MillerCoors profits) significantly below 25%.

PRINCIPAL METHODOLOGY

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Global Alcoholic Beverage Industry published in October 2013. Please see the Credit Policy page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

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 June 2014 entitled "Mapping Moody's National Scale Ratings to Global Scale Ratings".

List of affected ratings

Upgrades:

..Issuer: SABMiller Plc

....BACKED Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, Upgraded to A3 from Baa1

....Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, Upgraded to A3 from Baa1

....Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program, Upgraded to (P)A3 from (P)Baa1

..Issuer: SABMiller Holdings Inc

....BACKED Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, Upgraded to A3 from Baa1

....BACKED Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program, Upgraded to (P)A3 from (P)Baa1

..Issuer: Foster's Group Pty Limited

.... LT Issuer Rating, Upgraded to A3 from Baa1

..Issuer: FBG Finance Limited

....BACKED Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, Upgraded to A3 from Baa1

..Issuer: FGL Finance (Aust.) Limited

....BACKED Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program, Upgraded to (P)A3 from (P)Baa1

Affirmations:

..Issuer: SABMiller Plc

....BACKED Commercial Paper, Affirmed P-2

....Other Short Term, Affirmed (P)P-2

..Issuer: SABMiller Holdings Inc

....BACKED Commercial Paper, Affirmed P-2

..Issuer: SABSA Holdings Limited

....NSR BACKED Senior Unsecured Medium-Term Note Program, Affirmed Aa3.za

....NSR BACKED Senior Unsecured Regular Bond/Debenture, Affirmed Aa3.za

....NSR BACKED Other Short Term, Affirmed P-1.za

..Issuer: FGL Finance (Aust.) Limited

....BACKED Other Short Term, Affirmed (P)P-2

Outlook Actions:

..Issuer: SABMiller Plc

....Outlook, Changed To Stable From Positive

..Issuer: SABMiller Holdings Inc

....Outlook, Changed To Stable From Positive

..Issuer: SABSA Holdings Limited

....Outlook, Changed To Stable From Positive

..Issuer: FBG Finance Limited

....Outlook, Changed To Stable From Positive

..Issuer: FGL Finance (Aust.) Limited

....Outlook, Changed To Stable From Positive

..Issuer: Foster's Group Pty Limited

....Outlook, Changed To Stable From Positive

SABMiller Plc is the world's second-largest brewer by volume, and the third largest by revenues, producing and distributing a large variety of beer brands in approximately 75 countries. During FY ending March 2015 and including the share of joint ventures and associates, the company sold 246 million hectolitres of lager (broadly flat compared to the prior year) and 70 million hectolitres of soft drinks (up 8% organically during the year), for total revenue (before excise duties and share of associates and joint ventures) of US$22.1 billion (down 1% compared with the prior year).

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 rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular 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 rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this 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 following information supplements Disclosure 10 ("Information Relating to Conflicts of Interest as required by Paragraph (a)(1)(ii)(J) of SEC Rule 17g-7") in the regulatory disclosures made at the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for each credit rating as indicated:

Moody's was not paid for services other than determining a credit rating in the most recently ended fiscal year by the person(s) that paid Moody's to determine this credit rating.

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.

Paolo Leschiutta
VP - Senior Credit Officer
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Italia S.r.l
Corso di Porta Romana 68
Milan 20122
Italy
Telephone:+39-02-9148-1100

Eric de Bodard
MD - Corporate Finance
Corporate Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:
Moody's Italia S.r.l
Corso di Porta Romana 68
Milan 20122
Italy
Telephone:+39-02-9148-1100

Moody's upgrades SABMiller plc to A3; stable outlook
No Related Data.
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