Breaking News

Tweet TWEET

Fitch Affirms Eastman's IDR at 'BBB'; Outlook Revised to Stable

  Fitch Affirms Eastman's IDR at 'BBB'; Outlook Revised to Stable

Business Wire

CHICAGO -- January 25, 2013

Fitch Ratings has affirmed the long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) and debt
ratings of Eastman Chemical Company (Eastman) at 'BBB'. Fitch has also
affirmed Eastman's short-term IDR and commercial paper rating at 'F2'. The
Rating Outlook is revised to Stable from Negative. A full list of ratings is
provided at the end of the release.

STABLE OUTLOOK

The revision of the Outlook to Stable reflects Eastman's progress integrating
the Solutia acquisition as well as the company's capacity and willingness to
significantly reduce debt used to fund its $4.9 billion acquisition of
Solutia. Eastman issued $3.6 billion of debt consisting of a $1.2 billion term
loan and $2.4 billion of senior unsecured notes to finance the acquisition.
Fitch anticipates the company will be strongly FCF positive over the next two
years, giving the company the ability to repay debt. Further, Eastman has
plans to significantly reduce debt. To that end, Eastman repaid $50 million of
its $1.2 billion term loan in the third quarter of 2012, and Fitch expects the
company will make substantial repayments through 2013.

Credit metrics are expected to strengthen due to operating income growth
combined with debt reduction. Fitch forecasts Eastman's total debt to EBITDA
for the year ended 2012 will be near 2.5 times (x). Eastman's debt to EBITDA
as reported LTM for Sept. 30, 2012 was 3.5x due to its almost $5 billion of
debt and only one quarter of integrated Solutia operating income. On a pro
forma basis, including Solutia operating earnings, Eastman had roughly $1.8
billion of EBITDA corresponding to debt to EBITDA of 2.8x for the LTM period.
Total debt to EBITDA of 2x - 2.5x is consistent with the rating given
Eastman's credit profile.

RATING RATIONALE

The ratings reflect the company's portfolio of differentiated chemical
products, solid pricing power in key end user markets, good vertical
integration of production streams along the acetyl, polyester and olefin value
chain, economies of scale at its focused production sites, particularly at its
main Kingsport, Tennessee location, and access to low cost light feedstocks in
North America, which has improved the company's global cost competitiveness,
particularly when compared to heavy-oil-derivative linked chemical production
in Europe.

Eastman's ratings are also supported by the company's ongoing portfolio
high-grading, with shedding of lower margin and commoditized businesses and
expansions into higher margin businesses such as filter tow markets in Asia,
specialty plasticizers, and Tritan co-polyester. Ratings are balanced by the
company's size; cash outflows for expected pension contributions; volatility
in raw materials and energy costs; periodically high working capital
requirements; an uncertain macroeconomic environment; and the integration risk
and higher leverage stemming from the proposed acquisition.

LIQUIDITY

Eastman has meaningful liquidity with an undrawn $750 million credit facility,
a fully available $250 million accounts receivable facility, and $237 million
of cash on hand at Sept. 30, 2012. The company has minimal near term
maturities, mostly consisting of term loan amortization payments. Eastman's
next large maturity is its 3% $250 million due December 2015. Fitch expects
the company to generate at least $400 million of FCF in 2013. Eastman projects
it will generate a cumulative $2 billion in FCF in 2012 through 2015.

The company's $750 million credit facility expires in December 2016 and is
utilized as a backstop to Eastman's commercial paper program. It contains a
covenant limiting debt to consolidated EBITDA to 3.5x with a carve-out for the
accounts receivable facility and EBITDA calculated on a pro forma basis to
include acquisitions. Eastman has adequate cushion with respect to the
covenant.

ENVIRONMENTAL LIABILITIES

Eastman inherited environmental liabilities of Solutia as a result of the
acquisition. Eastman has a reserve of $399 million for environmental
contingencies. According to Eastman, estimated future environmental
expenditures for remediation costs range from a best estimate of $370 million
to a maximum of $625 million. The largest of these liabilities are related to
PCB contamination at sites in Anniston, Alabama and Sauget, Illinois. PCBs
have not been manufactured at the sites in decades, and clean up efforts have
started and are well defined. Fitch believes these costs are manageable for
the company over time given its FCF generation.

SENSITIVITY/RATING DRIVERS

Positive: Future developments that could lead to positive rating actions
include:

--Total debt to EBITDA of 1.5x on a midcycle basis in combination with annual
FCF over $500 million.

Negative: Future developments that could lead to negative rating actions
include:

--Leveraging transactions: debt financed share repurchases, dilutive
acquisitions, etc.;

--Sustained negative FCF leading to incremental borrowings;

--A major operational issue or global recession which pushed EBITDA lower on a
sustained basis and not offset by adjustments in Eastman's cost structure.

Fitch affirms the ratings of Eastman as follows:

--Long-term IDR at 'BBB';

--Senior unsecured revolving credit facility at 'BBB';

--Senior unsecured debt at 'BBB';

--Short-term IDR at 'F2';

--Commercial Paper at 'F2'.

The Rating Outlook is Stable.

Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'. The ratings
above were solicited by, or on behalf of, the issuer, and therefore, Fitch has
been compensated for the provision of the ratings.

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:

--'Corporate Rating Methodology' (Aug. 8, 2012);

--'Rating Chemical Companies' (Aug. 9, 2012).

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:

Corporate Rating Methodology

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=684460

Rating Chemical Companies

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=682313

ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS.
PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK:
HTTP://FITCHRATINGS.COM/UNDERSTANDINGCREDITRATINGS. IN ADDITION, RATING
DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S
PUBLIC WEBSITE 'WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM'. 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.

Contact:

Fitch Ratings
Primary Analyst
Christopher M. Collins, CFA, +1-312-368-3196
Director
Fitch, Inc.
70 West Madison Street
Chicago, IL 60602
or
Secondary Analyst
Mark C. Sadeghian, CFA, +1-312-368-2090
Senior Director
or
Committee Chairperson
Sean T. Sexton, CFA, +1-312-368-3130
Managing Director
or
Media Relations
Brian Bertsch, New York, +1-212-908-0549
brian.bertsch@fitchratings.com
 
Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.