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Fitch Affirms Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold IDR at 'BBB'
Feb 28,2013 08:50CST
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Fitch Ratings has affirmed the Issuer Default Rating (IDR) of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE: FCX) at 'BBB'.

Feb 27 - Fitch Ratings has affirmed the Issuer Default Rating (IDR) of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE: FCX) at 'BBB', along with the outstanding debt of FCX and its subsidiary Freeport-McMoRan Corporation (FMC) formerly known as Phelps Dodge Corporation. A full list of ratings is provided at the end of this release.

The ratings contemplate the acquisition of Plains Exploration & Production Company (NYSE: PXP) and McMoRan Exploration Co. (NYSE: MMR). The transaction is expected to give rise to $9.5 billion in additional borrowing and $6.9 billion in assumed debt for a total consolidated debt of $20 billion.

The Rating Outlook is Stable.

Key Rating Drivers:
The ratings reflect FCX's leading position in the mining industry, strong liquidity, and sound operational and financial management. Operations benefit from low average costs, large scale and long lived copper reserves. Long-term copper fundamentals benefit from limited new supply, modest inventories, strong demand from China and solid demand from developed nations. FCX management has a long experience with oil and gas and the transaction does diversify the company's Indonesian copper exposure.

Of the $3.7 billion in cash on hand at Dec. 31, 2012, $2.7 billion would available to the holding company after withholding taxes and minority interests.

At Dec. 31, 2012, pro forma total debt was $20 billion with scheduled maturities (excluding any scheduled maturities associated with any new senior notes issued to finance the transaction) over the next five years of $2 million in 2013, $600 million in 2014, $1 billion in 2015, $950 million in 2016 and $700 million in 2017. The new $3 billion revolver, maturing in 2018, would have been fully available except for $45 million representing letters of credits. Financial covenants under the revolver are a maximum net debt to EBITDAX ratio of 3.75x with debt net of domestic cash capped at $1 billion and a minimum interest coverage ratio of 2.5x.

The Stable Outlook reflects FCX's intent to reduce debt and Fitch's outlook on the copper and energy markets.

Guidance for average 2013/2014 EBITDA and operating cash flow excluding the impacts of working capital pro forma for the PXP and MMR acquisition is about $12.5 billion and $9.5 billion, respectively assuming average realizations of copper at $3.50/lb., gold at $1,500/oz., molybdenum at $12/lb, Brent oil prices of $100/bbl. and natural gas at $4.50/mcf. This compares to 2012 operating EBITDA of $7.2 billion and operating cash flow before working capital of $5.2 billion on average realizations of copper at $3.60/lb., gold at $1,665/oz., and molybdenum at $14.26/lb.

Guidance for pro forma annual capital expenditures is $7.2 billion on average in 2013 and 2014. Fitch estimates annual interest costs on pro forma debt levels to be about $1 billion per year and ordinary common dividends to be about $1.3 billion per year, at the current dividend rate.

Fitch expects free cash flow to be neutral to positive. Fitch expects FFO adjusted leverage to remain under 2.5x on average over the next 24 months.

Fitch notes that earnings and cash flows are highly leveraged to metals prices and a $0.10/lb. decline in copper prices could cut EBITDA by $405 million and operating cash flows by $275 million over a 12-month period. In particular, FCX's average copper realizations were $3.60/lb. for the full year 2012. Fitch's Base Case copper price assumptions are $3.40/lb. in 2013 and $2.70/lb. longer term.

Pro forma EBITDA and operating cash flows will be sensitive to oil sales prices even after accounting for hedges. Using a base Brent price of $106/bbl. in 2013 and $101/bbl. in 2014, a $10/bbl. decrease in price would result in a decrease in EBITDA of $275 million and a decrease in operating cash flows of $280 million. Fitch's Base Case Brent price is $100/bbl. in 2013, $92/bbl. in 2014, and $85/bbl. in 2015.

Rating Sensitivities
Negative: Future developments that may, individually or collectively, lead to negative rating action include:

--Expectations that FFO adjusted leverage be above 2.5x and free cash flow negative in a normalized price environment by 2015.

Positive: Not anticipated over the next 12 months given the PXP and MMR transaction:

--Repayment of debt ahead of expectations.

Fitch rates FCX as follows:

--Issuer Default Rating 'BBB';
--$3 billion unsecured bank revolver 'BBB';
--$4 billion unsecured term loan 'BBB';
--$500 million 1.40% senior notes due Feb. 13, 2015 'BBB';
--$500 million 2.15% senior notes due March 1, 2017 'BBB';
--$2 billion 3.55% senior notes due March 1, 2022 'BBB'.

--7.125% senior unsecured debentures due 2027 'BBB';
--9.50% senior unsecured notes due 2031 'BBB';
--6.125% senior unsecured notes due 2034 'BBB'.

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).

Applicable Criteria and Related Research
Corporate Rating Methodology

Fitch Ratings

For queries, please contact Frank LIU at liuxiaolei@smm.cn

For more information on how to access our research reports, please email service.en@smm.cn

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