(The following statement was released by the rating agency)
July 1 - Fitch Ratings has today affirmedMotor Co., Ltd.'s (Nissan) Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default ratings (IDRs) and senior unsecured debt rating at 'BBB-'. The Outlook remains negative.
The agency has also affirmed's Short-term foreign and local currency ratings at 'F3'. "Nissan continued to post operating losses in Q4FY08 (Q4 ending March 2009), resulting in a full year operating loss of JPY137.9bn.
However, earnings were in line with the company's guidance and with Fitch's expectations, and had been factored into the ratings following a downgrade in the Long-term IDRs to 'BBB-' on 9 March 2009," says Jeong Min Pak, Director in the agency's Asia-Pacific Corporates team. Uncertainties remain over the global economic situation and therefore on the timing and extent of a recovery in the automobile market.
Fitch anticipates that the competitive landscape, following the recovery, will be very different compared to that of the pre-crisis years; it is likely to be difficult for the industry in general to regain previous levels of profitability in the near-term given changes in the appetite for auto purchases, partly driven by higher fuel prices, a tighter credit environment, and a greater awareness of environmental issues.
That said, auto sales in major markets are currently showing signs of bottoming-out after months of sequential sales declines. With the impact of the economic downturn as well as the strong Yen concentrated in H2, Nissan posted consolidated revenues of JPY8.44trn (-22% yoy) for FY08.
As at end FY08, Nissan's net debt levels rose (compared to FY07 levels), though - despite higher operating losses - net debt actually declined from Q3FY08, reflecting tighter inventory management. Amidst the current downturn, Nissan is also seeking to increase the level of synergies derived from its alliance withand has outlined detailed plans identifying EUR1.5bn in synergies for FY09, of which JPY824bn will accrue to Nissan.
Nissan's parentSA was downgraded to 'BB'/Negative in March 2009. The strategic, operational and management linkages between the two entities could become stronger as both Renault and Nissan are trying to obtain higher synergies from the alliance in light of the difficult industry environment.
However, in the agency's view, factors such as the recent scrapping of Nissan's dividend indicate a relatively low likelihood of cash flows or assets at Nissan being channelled upstream to support Renault's credit profile. This, in turn, indicates that the impact of Renault's credit profile on that of Nissan would not be as significant as the linkage analysis may otherwise suggest, leaving Fitch comfortable - at this stage - with a two notch rating differential between the two entities. The strong Yen continues to be a potential risk factor.
However, the Yen has recently been relatively stable at around JPY95/USD levels, compared with a level of below 90 as of early 2009. Nissan is also trying to mitigate the impact of the currency by moving some of its production facilities overseas. Additional risks include the potential disruption to the supply chain in the US following the bankruptcy of GM/.
Negative rating factors would include ongoing low profitability due to a continuation of very weak current market conditions for a longer-than-expected period (beyond fiscal year ending March 2011), Nissan's failure to compete effectively in the markets for next-generation vehicles and in the emerging markets, and the continuation of negative free cash flow for more than two years.
Any substantial requirement for the company to provide support to its suppliers, its dealership network or its financial subsidiaries should their performance deteriorate would also constitute a negative rating factor.
Additionally, further downward pressure on Renault's ratings could threaten to widen the existing two notch rating differential between the two companies and would likely be a negative rating factor for Nissan.
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