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TEXT-Fitch rates GCC's proposed senior secured notes 'BB-/RR3'
January 25, 2013 / 5:10 PM / 5 years ago

TEXT-Fitch rates GCC's proposed senior secured notes 'BB-/RR3'

Jan 25 - Fitch Ratings has assigned the following ratings to Grupo Cementos
de Chihuahua, S.A.B. de C.V.'s (GCC):

--Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) 'B+';
--Local Currency Long-Term IDR 'B+'
--Proposed 5 to 10 years senior secured notes 'BB-/RR3' up to USD260 million

The Rating Outlook is Stable

The expected recovery ratings of 'RR3' reflect good recovery prospects given
default. 'RR3' rated securities have characteristics consistent with securities
historically recovering 51% - 70% of current principal and related interest.

GCC's ratings reflects the company's solid business position in the cement,
ready mix and aggregates segments in the regions where it has a presence;
diversified operations in Mexico and U.S. in the non-residential and residential
sectors; as well as positive free cash flow generation through the recent
industry cycle. The ratings are limited by the company's high leverage, pressure
on profitability given market and competitive conditions, and geographic
concentration in one Mexican State and the Central/Mountain region in the U.S.

The company plans to issue senior secured notes up to $260 million USD. The
notes will be secured by substantially all shares of its subsidiaries: GCC
Cemento, S.A. de C.V., Cementos de Chihuahua S.A. de C.V., and GCC of America,
Inc... The notes will also be guaranteed by these three subsidiaries.

Additionally the company will obtain a syndicated bank facility for $250 million
USD that will share the security package with the notes and will have scheduled
maturities of USD4 million in 2013, USD20 million in 2014, USD53 million in
2015, USD83 million in 2016 and USD91 million in 2017. Proceeds from the
proposed notes and the syndicated bank loan will be used to refinance the
company's total existing indebtedness.

CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY DRIVING PROFITABILITY

The recent global crisis has affected the construction activity in Mexico and
the U.S. GCC volumes of cement decreased 11% from 2007 to 2011, with Mexico
decreasing 11% and the U.S. 10%. In contrast, according to the Portland Cement
Association (PCA) national cement consumption in the U.S. fell over 40% to 72
million metric tons from 117 million in the same period. In Mexico, in addition
to the economic slowdown, the volume reduction was also influenced by insecurity
issues in the State of Chihuahua.

GCC's revenues decreased to USD579 million in 2011 from USD722 million in 2008
as a result of lower volumes and tough competition which affected prices. The
company's U.S. revenues decreased 17.8% to USD373 million while its Mexican
operations fell 23% to USD206 million. Consolidated EBITDA margin also was
pressured to 18% in 2011 from 29% in 2008.

During the first nine months of 2012, the company's volumes have recovered 13%
from the same period a year ago, with Mexico relatively flat and the U.S.
contributing with an important 19%. The States where GCC operates have shown
better volume dynamics than the US national average. On the other hand, prices
have remained under pressure as a result of intense competition and industry
oversupply.

GCC has expanded its geographic reach to existing and new customers, which in
turn has translated into higher operating costs and expenses. For the
latest-twelve-month (LTM), EBITDA margin stood at 18.5%, similar to fiscal year
(FY) 2011 but below 22.5% in 2010, 26.6% in 2009 and 28.5% in 2008. A better
pricing environment driven by better industry prospects in the U.S. residential
construction in 2013 and 2014, would allow GCC to improve operating results due
to better fixed-cost absorption.

BUSINESS POSITION SUPPORTED BY LEADING MARKET SHARES

GCC is leader in the State of Chihuahua in all product segments and has relevant
cement market positions in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, New
Mexico and Texas (in El Paso). These markets were less affected during the U.S.
housing crisis, and have shown above average volume recovery in 2012, according
to the PCA. Higher consumption in the northern states is related to increased
exploration and drilling of oil and gas fields and related activities, as well
as agricultural positive dynamism. In Mexico, increased government and housing
related activities are expected to support current trends.

LEVERAGE IMPROVING BUT STILL HIGH

Fitch expects that the company's total debt/EBITDA at the end of 2013 will be
similar at current levels of approximately 4.0x. GCC's leverage remains high
despite the company's management debt reduction efforts through internal free
cash flow generation and asset sales. These actions have resulted in debt
repayments of around USD220 million since the second quarter of 2010. At the end
of 2011 the company sold its 49% stake in its Bolivian subsidiary (SOBOCE) for
approximately USD75 million which was used to pay down debt. For the LTM ended
Sept. 30 2012, GCC's total debt to EBITDA ratio was 4.4x which compares
favorably with 5.4x registered in the same period of 2011 and to 5.6x and 5.0x
at year end 2011 and 2010, respectively.

On the other hand, GCC's EBITDA/gross interest expense coverage has improved in
recent quarters reaching 3.1x for the LTM ended in Sep. 30, 2012, compared to
2.1x in the same period of 2011 and to 2.6x and 2.4x at year end 2011 and 2010,
respectively.

POSITIVE FREE CASH FLOW GENERATION THROUGH THE CYCLE

Fitch expects the company will continue generating stable free cash flows as
recovery in its main markets continues. Factored in the ratings is the company's
positive free cash flow generation in the past years, which in conjunction with
asset sales has been used to reduce debt levels. Total debt as of Sept. 30, 2012
was USD518 million, down from USD663 million at the end of 2010. For the LTM
period ended Sep. 30, 2012 the company generated free cash flow (FCF) of around
USD25 million after capex of USD35 million and dividend received of USD4
million. During 2011, 2010 and 2009 FCF averaged over USD55 million. The company
estimates a normalized capex level of USD40-50 million for the following years.

LIQUIDITY SUPPORTED BY CASH GENERATION

The company intends to strengthen its liquidity position with the execution of
its liability management strategy, which will allow it to adjust debt maturities
to cash flows and extend its debt average life. At Sept. 30, 2012 GCC had total
debt of USD518 million, short-term debt of USD95 million and USD74 million of
cash and marketable securities. During the LTM ended Sept. 30, 2012, GCC
generated USD115 million of EBITDA, an increase from USD107 million during
FY2011 but a decline compared to USD119 million during FY2010. The company's
cash flow from operations (CFFO) during the LTM ended Sept. 30, 2012 was USD55.3
million, a decline from USD65.1 million and USD65.4 million at year end 2011 and
2010, respectively. The drop in operating cash flow was primarily due to price
competition and higher costs.

SENSITIVITY/RATING DRIVERS

Lower Profitability and Cash Generation: A negative rating action could be
triggered by a deterioration of the company's credit protection measures and
cash position due to weak operational results, reflecting increased price
competition or higher costs, deterioration in FCF generation driven by
increasing working capital needs and Capex, and declining EBITDA margins.
Another factor that can likely result in a downgrade is if the debt to EBITDA
ratios is consistently at or beyond 5.0x.

On the other hand, positive rating actions could derive from a better operative
performance due to price increases and costs contention initiatives, following a
recovery in the U.S. residential sector resulting in higher gross margins and
EBITDA generation, in addition to the expectation that total debt to EBITDA will
remain below 4.0x over time, while maintaining adequate liquidity and a
manageable debt maturity profile.

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);
--'Recovery Ratings and Notching Criteria for Non-Financial Corporate Issuers'
(Nov. 13, 2012).

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:
Corporate Rating Methodology
Recovery Ratings and Notching Criteria for Non-Financial Corporate Issuers

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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