Fitch Affirms Bharti Airtel at 'BBB-'; Outlook Negative
(The following statement was released by the rating agency) Fitch Ratings-Singapore/Hong Kong-30 November 2020: Fitch Ratings has affirmed India-based Bharti Airtel (NS: BRTI ) Limited's (Bharti) Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) and senior unsecured rating at 'BBB-'. The Outlook on the IDR is Negative. The agency has also affirmed Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) B.V.'s senior unsecured guaranteed bonds at 'BBB-' and Network i2i Limited's subordinated perpetual bond at 'BB'. Network i2i's subordinated perpetual note is rated two notches below Bharti's IDR. This reflects the notes' deeply subordinated nature, ranking junior to all existing and future debt obligations and senior only to Bharti's ordinary shares. This approach is in accordance with Fitch's Corporate Hybrids Treatment and Notching Criteria. The Negative Outlook does not reflect our view of Bharti's underlying credit profile - which has been improving, benefiting from strong growth in the Indian and African wireless operations - but rather the heightened probability that India's Country Ceiling (BBB-) could be lowered to 'BB+'. Such an action would constrain Bharti's IDR and senior issue ratings to 'BB+'. Key Rating Drivers Outlook Sovereign Driven: The Negative Outlook on Bharti's IDR reflects the Outlook on India's Long-Term Foreign- and Local-Currency IDRs (BBB-), which were revised to Negative from Stable on 18 June 2020. Bharti's IDR and senior issue ratings are not directly constrained by India's sovereign rating but cannot exceed the Country Ceiling, which reflects the transfer and convertibility risks associated with foreign-currency obligations. Robust Growth Defying Pandemic: We forecast Bharti's financial year ending March 2021 (FY21) funds from operations (FFO) net leverage to be 2.2x-2.4x, below the threshold of 2.5x above which we will take negative rating action. We expect Bharti's FY21 revenue and EBITDA to rise by around 17%-25%, on improvement in the Indian wireless market and continued strong growth in African markets, despite the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Consolidated revenue and EBITDA in 1HFY21 rose by 19% and 37% yoy, respectively, defying the pandemic-led slowdown. Improving Tariffs in Indian Market: We forecast Bharti's Indian wireless EBITDA to rise by around 40%-50% in FY21, led by 15 million subscriber additions and monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) improvement of 10%-12%. Indian mobile revenue increased by 22% yoy in 1HFY21 and EBITDA by 60% yoy, on a pre-Indian AS 116 basis, supported by a 27% rise in monthly ARPU to INR162 (USD2.2) and high monthly data usage of around 16 GB per user, one of the highest globally. Regulatory Dues Factored: Bharti has so far paid about USD2.4 billion out of its previously unpaid total dues of USD6.4 billion owed to India's Department of Telecommunications (DOT) for a dispute over the amount of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues. We have factored in a balance of USD4 billion for AGR dues in our FY21 leverage, despite the Supreme Court allowing the balance to be paid over 10 years starting March 2022. The court's original ruling in October 2019 led the DOT to demand large unpaid dues on licence fees and spectrum-usage charges from incumbent Indian telcos. The DOT demand relates to a 14-year-old dispute on the definition of AGR, which the court ruled should include all income the telcos generate. Positive FCF on Flat Capex: We expect Bharti to generate small positive free cash flow in FY21 on flat core capex, lower interest costs and the government's two-year moratorium on the payment of existing spectrum dues, which will defer about USD840 million in each of FY21 and FY22. We expect FY21 as absolute core capex will most likely be flat at INR210-220 billion (FY20: INR221 billion), ignoring one-time payments for spectrum assets. Bharti will continue to invest in expansion of its 4G and fibre networks across Indian and African markets. We have assumed USD500 million in FY21 and USD1 billion in FY22 to fund the upfront spectrum investments. Bharti has completed the shutdown of its 3G network across India and has redirected its 900MHz and 2100MHz spectrum for 4G usage. Management has publicly stated its intention to not participate in 5G spectrum auctions, at existing high prices. Solid African Growth: We forecast African FY21 revenue and EBITDA to rise by 6%-8%, on growth in subscribers, mobile data and mobile-money services. African revenue and EBITDA in 1HFY21 increased by 11% and 13% yoy, respectively, on a reported currency basis, and management expects 2HFY21 growth to be higher than 1HFY21, which was lower due to pandemic. We expect mobile data and mobile money segments to expand by 10%-15%, which together contribute around 40% of the group's revenue. We forecast FY21 EBITDA margin to remain at around 39% (post IFRS-16 of 44%-45%), as we expect rising contributions from higher-margin 4G services and mobile money will offset foreign-exchange losses. Indian Wireless Industry to Consolidate: We expect Bharti and Reliance (NS: RELI ) Jio to increase their combined revenue market share to 80% (September 2020: around 74%) in the next 12-18 months as the third-largest telco, Vodafone Idea (NS: VODA ), is rapidly losing market share given its weak balance sheet and limited financial flexibility. We believe that Vodafone (LON: VOD ) Idea could lose 50 million-70 million subscribers in the next 12 months, after losing about 155 million subscribers in the last nine quarters. We think Reliance Jio could gain more than half of Vodafone Idea's subscriber losses, with the balance going to Bharti. In 2QFY21 Bharti added 14 million subscribers, double than that of Jio's seven million. We believe that Vodafone Idea's plan to raise about USD3.4 billion through a mix of equity and debt, is unlikely to restore its competitive position and reverse subscriber losses, as the amount would be insufficient for capex. It has so far paid about USD1.1 billion of its total unpaid dues of USD8.9 billion it is required to pay to the DOT for the AGR dues dispute. Derivation Summary Philippines-based Globe Telecom, Inc. (BBB-/Stable) has smaller scale and a less diversified revenue base, which is offset by lower competition and regulatory risk in the duopolistic Philippines market. However, we expect competition to increase with the impending entry of Dito Telecommunity. Globe is also likely to increase capex investment given regulatory pressure to improve 4G coverage in anticipation of Dito's entry in the market. We forecast Bharti's FY21 FFO net leverage to be around 2.2x-2.4x, relative to Globe's 2.5x-2.7x. Bharti has a stronger business profile than Indonesian telcos PT Indosat Tbk (BBB/Stable; SCP: bb) and PT XL Axiata (BBB/Stable; SCP: bb+) because of its larger scale, better market position and integrated operations. Both Indosat and XL have a weaker market position, with revenue market shares below 20%, as they compete with a much financially and operationally stronger leader, PT Telekomunikasi Selular, which has a market share of over 50%. Bharti has a stronger FFO net leverage compared with our forecast for Indosat of 3.0x-3.5x, but at a similar level with XL in 2020. Singapore Telecommunications Limited (A/Stable; SCP: a-) has a stronger business risk profile than Bharti, given its position as an integrated telecom service provider with market leadership in Singapore, the second position in Australia via SingTel Optus Pty Limited (A-/Stable) and leading positions in Indonesia, India, Thailand and the Philippines through its associates. Singtel's rating benefits from a one-notch uplift for government support. Singtel is facing competitive pressure in its core Singapore and Australian markets, while having to spend more on capex to launch 5G services in Singapore. However, Singtel's FY21 FFO net leverage is broadly similar to Bharti's at around 2.3x-2.5x. Key Assumptions Fitch's Key Assumptions Within Our Rating Case for the Issuer: - Revenue to increase by 15%-20% in FY21 and 10-15% in FY22; - Indian mobile blended ARPU to increase by 10%-12% to around INR170 by end-March 2021 (1HFY21: INR162); - Subscriber additions of 15 million each in FY21 and FY22; - Operating EBITDA margin to remain at 36%-37% in FY21-FY22 (FY20: 36%) on monthly ARPU hikes. The EBITDA margin is based on pre-Indian AS 116 accounting adjustments. - FY21 capex/revenue around 23%-25%. FY22 capex includes spectrum payment of USD1 billion; - African revenue to grow by the high single-digit percentage in FY21 on growth in subscribers and the mobile data and mobile money segments. Operating EBITDA margin to remain at 38%-40%; - Effective interest rate of 5.5%-6.0%. RATING SENSITIVITIES Factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to positive rating action/upgrade: - A revision of the Outlook on the Indian sovereign to Stable would indicate that the Country Ceiling is likely to remain at 'BBB-' and therefore our Outlook on Bharti would be stabilised, provided that Bharti's FFO net leverage remains below 2.5x on a sustained basis. Factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to negative rating action/downgrade: - A downward revision of the Country Ceiling; - Higher regulatory dues than Fitch expects, slower recovery in Indian operations or debt-funded M&A resulting in FFO net leverage remaining above 2.5x for a sustained period. Rating Sensitivities for the Indian sovereign, from the rating action commentary dated 18 June 2020: Factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to negative rating action/downgrade: - A structurally weaker real GDP growth outlook, for instance due to continued financial-sector weakness or reform implementation that is lacking. - Failure to reduce the fiscal deficit after the pandemic recedes, and to put the general government debt/GDP ratio on a downward trajectory. Factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to positive rating action/upgrade: - Implementation of a credible strategy to reduce general government debt after the pandemic that would put it on a path towards the 'BBB' peer median. - Higher sustained investment and growth rates in the medium term without the creation of macroeconomic imbalances, such as from successful structural reform implementation and a healthier financial sector. Best/Worst Case Rating Scenario International scale credit ratings of Non-Financial Corporate issuers have a best-case rating upgrade scenario (defined as the 99th percentile of rating transitions, measured in a positive direction) of three notches over a three-year rating horizon; and a worst-case rating downgrade scenario (defined as the 99th percentile of rating transitions, measured in a negative direction) of four notches over three years. The complete span of best- and worst-case scenario credit ratings for all rating categories ranges from 'AAA' to 'D'. Best- and worst-case scenario credit ratings are based on historical performance. For more information about the methodology used to determine sector-specific best- and worst-case scenario credit ratings, visit https://www.fitchratings.com/site/re/10111579. Liquidity and Debt Structure Adequate Liquidity: The company had sufficient liquidity with cash and equivalents of INR225 billion (USD3 billion) at end-September 2020 and undrawn committed facilities of INR61 billion, which are sufficient to pay the short-term debt maturities of INR248 billion (USD3.4 billion). A large part of the short-term debt is in the nature of revolving facilities. The company has strong access to Indian and multinational banks and capital markets, as evident from its issuance of around USD7 billion of senior and perpetual bonds over the previous six years in US dollars, euros and Swiss francs. Summary of Financial Adjustments We have excluded INR433 billion of deferred spectrum costs from debt, as we treat such costs as capital commitments. We include annual spectrum payments in our capex forecast. REFERENCES FOR SUBSTANTIALLY MATERIAL SOURCE CITED AS KEY DRIVER OF RATING The principal sources of information used in the analysis are described in the Applicable Criteria. Public Ratings with Credit Linkage to other ratings Should the Indian sovereign IDRs be downgraded, the Country Ceiling may also be revised down in tandem, which would constrain Bharti's IDR and senior issue ratings to 'BB+'. If the Outlook on the sovereign's IDRs is stabilised, the Country Ceiling is likely to remain at 'BBB-' and therefore Bharti's Outlook would be stabilised. ESG Considerations Unless otherwise disclosed in this section, the highest level of ESG credit relevance is a score of '3'. This means ESG issues are credit-neutral or have only a minimal credit impact on the entity, either due to their nature or the way in which they are being managed by the entity. For more information on Fitch's ESG Relevance Scores, visit www.fitchratings.com/esg Bharti Airtel Limited; Long Term Issuer Default Rating; Affirmed; BBB-; Rating Outlook Negative ----senior unsecured; Long Term Rating; Affirmed; BBB- Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) B.V. ----senior unsecured; Long Term Rating; Affirmed; BBB- Network i2i Limited ----subordinated; Long Term Rating; Affirmed; BB Contacts: Primary Rating Analyst Nitin Soni, Senior Director +65 6796 7235 Fitch Ratings Singapore Pte Ltd. One Raffles Quay #22-11, South Tower Singapore 048583 Secondary Rating Analyst Kelvin Ho, Director +852 2263 9940 Committee Chairperson Steve Durose, Managing Director +61 2 8256 0307 Media Relations: Leslie Tan, Singapore, Tel: +65 6796 7234, Email: email@example.com Peter Hoflich, Singapore, Tel: +65 6796 7229, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Alanis Ko, Hong Kong, Tel: +852 2263 9953, Email: email@example.com Wai Lun Wan, Hong Kong, Tel: +852 2263 9935, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com Applicable Model Numbers in parentheses accompanying applicable model(s) contain hyperlinks to criteria providing description of model(s). Corporate Monitoring & Forecasting Model (COMFORT Model), v7.9.0 (1 (https://www.fitchratings.com/site/re/973270)) Additional Disclosures Dodd-Frank Rating Information Disclosure Form (https://www.fitchratings.com/site/dodd-frank-disclosure/10144661) Solicitation Status (https://www.fitchratings.com/site/pr/10144661#solicitation) Endorsement Status (https://www.fitchratings.com/site/pr/10144661#endorsement_status) Endorsement Policy (https://www.fitchratings.com/site/pr/10144661#endorsement-policy) ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: HTTPS://WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM/UNDERSTANDINGCREDITRATINGS (HTTPS://WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM/UNDERSTANDINGCREDITRATINGS). IN ADDITION, THE FOLLOWING HTTPS://WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM/RATING-DEFINITIONS-DOCUMENT (https://www.fitchratings.com/rating-definitions-document) DETAILS FITCH'S RATING DEFINITIONS FOR EACH RATING SCALE AND RATING CATEGORIES, INCLUDING DEFINITIONS RELATING TO DEFAULT. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA, AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH'S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE, AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE CODE OF CONDUCT SECTION OF THIS SITE. DIRECTORS AND SHAREHOLDERS RELEVANT INTERESTS ARE AVAILABLE AT HTTPS://WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM/SITE/REGULATORY (https://www.fitchratings.com/site/regulatory). FITCH MAY HAVE PROVIDED ANOTHER PERMISSIBLE SERVICE TO THE RATED ENTITY OR ITS RELATED THIRD PARTIES. DETAILS OF THIS SERVICE FOR RATINGS FOR WHICH THE LEAD ANALYST IS BASED IN AN EU-REGISTERED ENTITY CAN BE FOUND ON THE ENTITY SUMMARY PAGE FOR THIS ISSUER ON THE FITCH RATINGS WEBSITE. Copyright © 2020 by Fitch Ratings, Inc., Fitch Ratings Ltd. and its subsidiaries. 33 Whitehall Street, NY, NY 10004. Telephone: 1-800-753-4824, (212) 908-0500. Fax: (212) 480-4435. Reproduction or retransmission in whole or in part is prohibited except by permission. All rights reserved. In issuing and maintaining its ratings and in making other reports (including forecast information), Fitch relies on factual information it receives from issuers and underwriters and from other sources Fitch believes to be credible. Fitch conducts a reasonable investigation of the factual information relied upon by it in accordance with its ratings methodology, and obtains reasonable verification of that information from independent sources, to the extent such sources are available for a given security or in a given jurisdiction. The manner of Fitch's factual investigation and the scope of the third-party verification it obtains will vary depending on the nature of the rated security and its issuer, the requirements and practices in the jurisdiction in which the rated security is offered and sold and/or the issuer is located, the availability and nature of relevant public information, access to the management of the issuer and its advisers, the availability of pre-existing third-party verifications such as audit reports, agreed-upon procedures letters, appraisals, actuarial reports, engineering reports, legal opinions and other reports provided by third parties, the availability of independent and competent third- party verification sources with respect to the particular security or in the particular jurisdiction of the issuer, and a variety of other factors. Users of Fitch's ratings and reports should understand that neither an enhanced factual investigation nor any third-party verification can ensure that all of the information Fitch relies on in connection with a rating or a report will be accurate and complete. Ultimately, the issuer and its advisers are responsible for the accuracy of the information they provide to Fitch and to the market in offering documents and other reports. In issuing its ratings and its reports, Fitch must rely on the work of experts, including independent auditors with respect to financial statements and attorneys with respect to legal and tax matters. Further, ratings and forecasts of financial and other information are inherently forward-looking and embody assumptions and predictions about future events that by their nature cannot be verified as facts. As a result, despite any verification of current facts, ratings and forecasts can be affected by future events or conditions that were not anticipated at the time a rating or forecast was issued or affirmed. The information in this report is provided "as is" without any representation or warranty of any kind, and Fitch does not represent or warrant that the report or any of its contents will meet any of the requirements of a recipient of the report. A Fitch rating is an opinion as to the creditworthiness of a security. This opinion and reports made by Fitch are based on established criteria and methodologies that Fitch is continuously evaluating and updating. Therefore, ratings and reports are the collective work product of Fitch and no individual, or group of individuals, is solely responsible for a rating or a report. The rating does not address the risk of loss due to risks other than credit risk, unless such risk is specifically mentioned. Fitch is not engaged in the offer or sale of any security. All Fitch reports have shared authorship. Individuals identified in a Fitch report were involved in, but are not solely responsible for, the opinions stated therein. The individuals are named for contact purposes only. A report providing a Fitch rating is neither a prospectus nor a substitute for the information assembled, verified and presented to investors by the issuer and its agents in connection with the sale of the securities. Ratings may be changed or withdrawn at any time for any reason in the sole discretion of Fitch. Fitch does not provide investment advice of any sort. Ratings are not a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Ratings do not comment on the adequacy of market price, the suitability of any security for a particular investor, or the tax-exempt nature or taxability of payments made in respect to any security. Fitch receives fees from issuers, insurers, guarantors, other obligors, and underwriters for rating securities. Such fees generally vary from US$1,000 to US$750,000 (or the applicable currency equivalent) per issue. In certain cases, Fitch will rate all or a number of issues issued by a particular issuer, or insured or guaranteed by a particular insurer or guarantor, for a single annual fee. Such fees are expected to vary from US$10,000 to US$1,500,000 (or the applicable currency equivalent). The assignment, publication, or dissemination of a rating by Fitch shall not constitute a consent by Fitch to use its name as an expert in connection with any registration statement filed under the United States securities laws, the Financial Services and Markets Act of 2000 of the United Kingdom, or the securities laws of any particular jurisdiction. Due to the relative efficiency of electronic publishing and distribution, Fitch research may be available to electronic subscribers up to three days earlier than to print subscribers. For Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and South Korea only: Fitch Australia Pty Ltd holds an Australian financial services license (AFS license no. 337123) which authorizes it to provide credit ratings to wholesale clients only. Credit ratings information published by Fitch is not intended to be used by persons who are retail clients within the meaning of the Corporations Act 2001 Fitch Ratings, Inc. is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as a Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization (the "NRSRO"). While certain of the NRSRO's credit rating subsidiaries are listed on Item 3 of Form NRSRO and as such are authorized to issue credit ratings on behalf of the NRSRO (see https://www.fitchratings.com/site/regulatory), other credit rating subsidiaries are not listed on Form NRSRO (the "non-NRSROs") and therefore credit ratings issued by those subsidiaries are not issued on behalf of the NRSRO. However, non-NRSRO personnel may participate in determining credit ratings issued by or on behalf of the NRSRO.
Add Chart to Comment
We encourage you to use comments to engage with users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:
- Enrich the conversation
- Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed.
- Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically.
- Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases.
- NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and links within a comment will be removed
- Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user.
- Don’t Monopolize the Conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also believe strongly in giving everyone a chance to air their thoughts. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
- Only English comments will be allowed.
Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.
Drop an image here or Supported formats: *.jpg, *.png, *.gif up to 5mb
Drop an image here or