TEXT-S&P summary: Sophos Ltd.
These constraints are partially mitigated by Sophos' well-established business position as a leading provider of integrated IT endpoint security applications and data protection software for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs). The group's high levels of recurring revenues are also a positive rating factor.
Sophos' financial risk profile is constrained, in our view, by the group's highly leveraged capital structure, including shareholder debt instruments. In addition, we view the group's financial policy as aggressive on account of its ownership by a private equity fund.
These constraints are partially mitigated by Sophos' solid free cash flow generation, strong cash interest coverage ratios, and long-dated debt maturities within the capital structure.
S&P base-case operating scenario
We have revised our base-case assumptions downward in light of the weakening macroeconomic environment in Europe, our forecast of lower global IT spending growth, and Sophos' slightly weaker revenue trends than we anticipated in 2012. Our base-case scenario for the financial year ending March 31, 2013 (financial 2013) therefore assumes only flat organic billings growth, excluding one quarter of growth from acquired IT security software company Astaro. (Sophos has consolidated Astaro from the second quarter of financial 2012.) Our base case assumes mid-single-digit growth in billings, including a full year of consolidation of Astaro.
We still assume meaningful growth from the unified threat management solutions segment, where we expect demand to remain relatively strong. However, we anticipate only flat billings in the legacy endpoint security segment, and we assume that additional take-up of endpoint security suites will be completely offset by higher churn on the back of tougher macroeconomic conditions.
In financial 2012, Sophos' billings increased by about 17% year on year, due to the acquisition of Astaro. Organic revenue growth was relatively flat, mainly due to some slowdown in growth from endpoint and gateway solutions, and an ongoing decline in revenues from data protection after a strategic shift toward the mid-market.
Our base-case assumptions include some margin compression in financial 2013, due to a combination of adverse product mix effects, pricing pressures, and higher marketing expenses on the security suites. As a result, we forecast that Sophos' cash EBITDA margin will decline to about 24% of billings, from almost 27% in financial 2012. At this stage, we do not anticipate any material margin rebound over the next two years, due to potential pricing pressures, our forecast of limited growth, and relatively high R&D requirements.
S&P base-case cash flow and capital-structure scenario
In our base-case scenario for financial 2013, we forecast that Sophos will continue to report solid free operating cash flow (FOCF) of about $50 million, despite the modest decline we project in EBITDA.
We forecast that Standard & Poor's-adjusted debt will reach nearly $800 million at financial year-end 2013, compared with adjusted debt of $762 million at financial year-end 2012. This is primarily because we assume limited mandatory debt repayments based on the current capital structure and an increasing amount of subordinated preference certificates (SPCs), which we view as debt-like instruments under our criteria. The SPCs accrue interest at an annual rate of about 13%. As a result, we forecast an increase in Sophos' gross adjusted debt-to-EBITDA ratio to about 7.7x at financial year-end 2013, up from about 7.1x at financial year-end 2012. Excluding the interest-accruing SPCs, we anticipate that leverage will remain flat at about 4.0x-4.1x on a gross debt basis, unless the company makes voluntary debt prepayments.
Although we anticipate deleveraging to about 3.0x on a net debt basis from about 3.3x in 2012, we see a risk that the company could use its excess cash to make significant acquisitions. However, we do not incorporate such acquisitions into our base-case scenario.
We forecast that EBITDA interest coverage will remain low at about 1.5x due to a large amount of SPC interest, but that cash interest coverage will be relatively strong for the rating level at more than 4x. This is partly thanks to a recent reduction in Sophos' interest margin following an amendment to the company's credit agreement in May 2012. We also forecast that the adjusted ratio of discretionary cash flow to debt will be about 6%-7% in financial 2013.
We assess Sophos' liquidity position as "adequate" under our criteria. Supporting factors are the group's relatively high cash balances and modest debt maturities over the next two years compared to our forecast of free cash flow generation. We anticipate that Sophos' sources of liquidity will cover its uses by more than 1.2x in the next 12 months.
In our base-case forecast, we estimate liquidity sources in financial 2013 of about $170 million. These include:
-- Consolidated cash and investments of about $80 million as of March 31, 2012;
-- A $20 million undrawn revolving credit facility (RCF) that matures in 2017; and
-- Funds from operations--that is, cash EBITDA after tax, and cash interest expense. We anticipate that this will amount to about $70 million-$75 million over the period.
We estimate the following liquidity uses in financial 2013:
-- Annual capital expenditures of about $13 million;
-- Working capital requirements of about $8 million (excluding the positive impact of deferred revenues);
-- Debt amortization payments of about $8 million in financial 2013; and
-- Potential small acquisitions of about $10 million.
We anticipate that despite a modest EBITDA decline, headroom under the leverage and interest coverage covenants will remain significant, at more than 30%.
The issue rating on the senior secured credit facilities issued by Shield Finance Co. S.a.r.l (not rated), is 'B+', one notch higher than the corporate credit rating on Sophos. The recovery rating on these facilities is '2', indicating our expectation of substantial (70%-90%) recovery for noteholders in the event of a payment default.
We view the security package provided to the lenders of the senior secured credit facilities as relatively comprehensive. The documentation appears typical for this type of transaction, even though there are relatively relaxed provisions for raising additional debt. Our recovery expectation is supported by our view that Sophos would be considered a going concern at default.
According to our hypothetical default scenario, a default could occur in financial 2015 (ending March 31, 2016) due to slow revenue growth and low profitability. We base this scenario on the relatively high proportion of fixed costs in Sophos' cost base, as well as fewer synergies and higher integration costs than we currently envisage for the Astaro acquisition. At our hypothetical point of default, we calculate Sophos' gross stressed enterprise value at about $360 million, based on a combination of discounted cash flow and market multiple valuations.
After deducting about $25 million of enforcement costs, we arrive at a net stressed enterprise value of $335 million. After accounting for amortization, we assume about $390 million of debt outstanding at default (including six months of prepetition interest and a fully drawn revolving credit facility). This leads to our view that recovery would be substantial (70%-90%) in the event of a payment default. This is also the basis for our recovery rating of '2', which equates to an issue rating of 'B+', one notch higher than the corporate credit rating.
We recognize that Sophos is exposed to significant reputation risks, for example, those linked to the performance of its security software. However, we do not assume a materialization of reputational risk in our hypothetical default scenario. Should such an event occur, we believe that the business would be liquidated. This would likely result in more significant downside to recovery prospects than in our base-case scenario due to the company's limited tangible asset base.
The positive outlook reflects our view that Sophos will maintain its well-established business position and continue to generate meaningfully positive free cash flow.
We could raise the rating on Sophos by one notch if we see that the company is able to at least stabilize its EBITDA generation, and maintain an EBITDA margin in the mid-20% region and discretionary cash flow to adjusted debt (including SPCs) of more than 5%. In addition, a decline in adjusted leverage to about 7x (less than 4x excluding the SPCs) would support an upgrade. An upgrade also depends on our view that Sophos' financial policy would enable it to maintain these metrics.
We could revise the outlook to stable if our forecast of resilient discretionary cash flow generation does not materialize. This could occur if the group starts to make significant dividend payments or continues to undertake large debt-funded acquisitions.
We could also revise the outlook to stable if Sophos' EBITDA margin declines more significantly than we currently envisage. This could occur, for example, following a material decline in contract renewals due to increased competition from existing competitors or new entrants, and would result in us revising downward our assessment of Sophos' business risk profile.
Related Criteria And Research
All articles listed below are available on RatingsDirect on the Global Credit Portal, unless otherwise stated.
-- Global High-Tech Spending Likely To Slow In The Second Half Of 2011, Oct. 12, 2011
-- Methodology And Assumptions: Liquidity Descriptors For Global Corporate Issuers, Sept. 28, 2011
-- Credit FAQ: Knowing The Investors In A Company's Debt And Equity, April 4, 2006
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