TEXT-Fitch revises Eastman Chemical outlook to stable, rating affirmed

Fri Jan 25, 2013 1:31pm EST

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Jan 25 - 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
Rating Chemical Companies
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