TEXT - Fitch rates Methanex Corp proposed notes 'BBB-'

Wed Dec 12, 2012 11:00am EST

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Dec 12 - Fitch Ratings has assigned a 'BBB-' rating to Methanex
Corporation's (Methanex) proposed $300 million issuance of 7-year 
notes. The Rating Outlook is Stable. A complete list of ratings is provided at 
the end of this release.

NOTES

The proposed senior notes will be unsecured obligations ranked pari passu with 
the company's existing unsecured notes. Borrowings at subsidiaries such as those
used to finance the company's EMethanex and Atlas plants are structurally 
superior to the notes. Methanex plans to use the proceeds for capital 
expenditures and other general corporate purposes. The notes are being issued 
under the company's indenture dated July 20, 1995. Key covenants include 
restrictions on secured debt, sale and leaseback transactions, certain 
subsidiaries' ability to incur debt without guaranteeing the proposed notes, and
mergers and asset sales. There are no financial covenants. The notes will have 
make-whole call provisions as well as a put option upon a change of control and 
a ratings decline.

RATINGS RATIONALE 

Methanex's ratings reflect the company's position as the largest supplier of 
methanol, its global distribution network, relatively low production costs 
within the industry, increased geographical diversification, operating leverage 
to the wide oil-natural gas spread, and conservative financial management. 
Rating limitations include the company's single-product focus, planned capital 
expenditures relating to its relocation of Chilean capacity to Geismar, 
Louisiana, and output constraints facing its remaining Chile plants.

Methanex's Chilean plants have been underutilized for a number of years due to 
the disrupted natural gas imports from Argentina. Methanex has supplemented lost
volumes with higher levels of purchased and commissioned methanol sales, but 
margins on these sales are significantly lower than on Methanex's own 
production. To address this, the company is in the process of dismantling one 
plant capable of producing one million tonnes per year, relocating it to Geismar
and reassembling it. The company received air rights for the relocated plant on 
Nov. 13, 2012. Fitch believes it is likely the company will relocate a second 
Chilean plant in Geismar. While the relocation will save the company 
substantially in comparison to a greenfield plant, Methanex expects to spend 
approximately $500 million in relocating one plant and roughly $1 billion 
relocating both. 

Methanex's margins in the past two years have benefited from advantageous 
methanol pricing. Methanol prices have been supported by energy-related uses 
linked to Brent crude pricing, significant and growing Chinese demand, and 
rational industry capacity. Fitch anticipates these factors to continue to 
support methanol prices. Methanex's margins are expected to benefit further when
they are able to capture the operating margin from Geismar-produced methanol. 
Methanex's Geismar facility will be able to benefit from low-priced natural gas 
which is expected to prevail for the near-to-intermediate term due to the North 
American shale boom. Natural gas is the feedstock and largest cost item for 
Methanex's methanol production process. In addition, since issues in Chile first
erupted, the company has ramped up production in several other locations 
including Egypt, New Zealand, and Medicine Hat. On a pro forma basis following 
the relocation of two plants to Geismar, Fitch anticipates just 21% of the 
company's nameplate capacity will be in Chile, versus a level as high as 56% in 
2009.

Methanex solely produces and markets methanol, which has a variety of end uses, 
from feedstock for formaldehyde and acetic acid in the chemical production chain
to energy-related uses in fuel blending. The more traditional uses in the 
chemical production chain tend to grow with global production while 
energy-related uses are growing at a faster rate. Methanex produces methanol in 
Canada, Chile, Egypt, New Zealand and Trinidad and soon, with the Geismar 
facility, the United States, which diversifies the company's production and 
reduces risks related to natural gas supply constraints.

FINANCIAL METRICS

The company's credit statistics have remained stable in 2012 as methanol prices 
have remained relatively stable year over year. As calculated by Fitch, 
Methanex's debt/EBITDA decreased from 1.93x in 2011 to 1.89x at Sept. 30, 2012. 
For the LTM ending Sept. 30, 2012, Fitch-calculated EBITDA/gross interest was 
6.84x, and funds from operations interest coverage was 7.24x, versus 7.26x and 
7.82x, respectively, in 2011. Free cash flow (FCF) has been strong with $240 
million in the LTM period ended Sept. 30, 2012. With significant capital spend 
relating to its plant relocations and anticipated restarting of New Zealand 
capacity, Fitch expects FCF to be moderately negative in 2013 and 2014.

LIQUIDITY

Methanex has a substantial liquidity position totaling $603 million as of Sept. 
30, 2012 with $403 million in cash and an undrawn $200 million revolver that 
expires mid-2015. The company has a light maturity schedule with only 
amortizations of its limited recourse project financing (2013: $53 million, 
2014: $62 million) until its $150 million 6% notes mature on Aug. 15, 2015. 
Financial covenants contained in the company's revolving credit facility include
a debt-to-capitalization ratio of 50% and minimum interest coverage ratio of 2x,
both of which the company met comfortably as of Sept. 30, 2012. The company also
has a limitation on secured debt included in the revolver and notes outstanding.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Fitch notes that Methanex's contracts with gas suppliers offer a measure of 
downside protection for creditors - contracts at several of the company's 
methanol plants allow Methanex to pay low base natural gas prices but share the 
upside with natural gas suppliers when methanol prices rise above certain 
levels. From a creditor perspective, this helps the company by lowering its cost
structure under depressed methanol pricing conditions. Supply contracts with 
this structure include Egypt, Trinidad, and the recently announced New Zealand 
agreements.

WHAT COULD TRIGGER A RATING ACTION

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

--Increased product diversification; 

--Successful relocation and restart of Chilean plants in Geismar coincident with
attractive methanol prices supported by positive demand trends.

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

--Sustained period of methanol overcapacity depressing pricing and margins;

--A leveraging transaction moving debt to EBITDA above 3.5x on a sustained 
basis;

--Large share repurchases or special dividends financed by debt.

Fitch currently rates Methanex as follows:
--Long-term Issuer Default Rating 'BBB-';
--Senior unsecured revolving credit facility 'BBB-';
--Senior unsecured notes 'BBB-'.
The Rating Outlook is Stable.
FILED UNDER:
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