December 14, 2012 / 5:05 PM / 5 years ago

TEXT - S&P raises Ethan Allen Interiors to 'BB-'

     -- U.S.-based home furnishings company Ethan Allen Interiors Inc.  
    has continued to improve its credit measures and operating performance over
past year.
     -- We are raising the corporate credit rating on Ethan Allen to 'BB-' 
from 'B+'. The 'BB-' issue-level rating on the company's senior unsecured 
notes remains unchanged, although we revised the recovery rating to '3' from 
     -- The outlook is stable, reflecting Ethan Allen's improving operating 
trends and our expectation that the company will continue to gradually improve 
credit measures and maintain adequate liquidity.

Rating Action
On Dec. 14, 2012, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services raised its corporate 
credit rating on Danbury, Conn.-based Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. to 'BB-' from 
'B+'. The issue-level rating on the company's senior unsecured notes remains a 
'BB-', while we revised the recovery rating to '3' from '2'. While a '3' 
recovery rating generally reflects our expectation of recovery in the 50%-70% 
range in the event of default, our recovery analysis suggests much higher 
recovery for Ethan Allen's notes. However, given the change in corporate 
credit rating to 'BB-', we cap the recovery rating for the unsecured notes at 
'3' because the company has the potential to incur secured debt in a 
distressed situation.  

The ratings on Ethan Allen reflect our opinion of the company's "significant" 
financial risk profile and "weak" business risk profile. Key credit factors in 
our assessment include the company's good brand awareness, strong retail 
distribution network, exposure to the highly competitive residential 
furnishings industry, and vulnerability to reduced discretionary spending in 
an economic downturn. We believe the potential for slowing economic conditions 
and continued weakness in the housing market remains a risk to further 
operating performance improvement.

Ethan Allen is one of the largest manufacturers and retailers of home 
furnishings and accessories in the U.S. As a vertically integrated company, 
Ethan Allen designs, manufactures, sources, distributes, and sells a full 
range of home furnishings under the well-recognized Ethan Allen brand. The 
company's products are sold through a dedicated international network of over 
300 retail stores, which we believe provides a competitive advantage. The 
company maintains a leading market position with a strong brand, yet 
participates in the highly fragmented residential furnishings industry. 
Additionally, housing market weakness and reduced consumer spending on 
furniture significantly depressed sales during the most recent recession. 
Sales declined by over 12% and over 31% for the fiscal years ended June 2010 
and June 2009, respectively, before improving by 15% in fiscal 2011. Sales for 
the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2012, were up about 4.7%, due to Ethan Allen's 
marketing initiatives, a wide range of new product introductions, an increase 
in the number of interior designers and other retail associates, the continued 
repositioning of its retail network, and improving consumer confidence. 

Manufacturing inefficiencies and a sharp decline in demand for the company's 
products pressured margins during the most recent recession in the U.S., but 
results have significantly improved in recent quarters. For the 12 months 
ended Sept. 30, 2012, we estimate adjusted EBITDA improved more than 16% from 
the previous-year period, yet still remains about 40% below the levels 
achieved prior to the most recent recession. Similarly, EBITDA margins for the 
12 months ended Sept. 30, 2012, have increased to 11.7%, from 10.5% in the 
previous-year period, yet remain well below prerecessionary levels of around 
15%. However, the company's results are benefiting from sales growth and the 
consolidation of its manufacturing, logistics, and distribution operations, as 
well as other cost-reduction actions taken in recent years. We believe EBITDA 
margins could continue to improve over the next year, as the company continues 
to realize the benefits of its expense reduction initiatives and improvements 
in manufacturing efficiencies.

Credit protection measures have shown substantial improvement in recent 
quarters, reflecting improved profitability and a post-recession volume 
recovery, as well as debt reduction. For the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2012, 
we estimate the ratio of total lease-adjusted debt to EBITDA improved to about 
3.4x, from 4.1x in the previous-year period, while funds from operations (FFO) 
to adjusted debt was 27% compared to 24.7%. We believe these improved credit 
measures are consistent with indicative ratios for a "significant" financial 
risk profile, which include leverage of 3x-4x and FFO to debt of 20%-30%, and 
will continue to modestly improve over the next year. 

Our forecast assumptions include:

     -- Ethan Allen's sales will increase at a mid-single-digit rate in fiscal 
2013, as the economy and consumer spending environment continues to recover.
     -- Adjusted EBITDA margins will improve by about 50 basis points, 
reflecting improving manufacturing efficiencies, volume leverage, and reduced 
promotional expenses. 
     -- Modest reduction in capital expenditures to about $20 million, from 
$22 million in fiscal 2012.

Based on our forecast, we estimate that by the end of the fiscal year ending 
June 2013, adjusted leverage will be close to 3x and FFO to total debt will 
remain close to 27%. We forecast FFO will be more than $55 million for fiscal 

We believe Ethan Allen has "adequate" liquidity to meet its needs over the 
next year. This is based on the following information and assumptions: 

     -- We expect liquidity sources (including cash, discretionary cash flow, 
and revolving credit availability) to exceed uses by more than 1.2x over the 
next 12 months.
     -- We expect net sources to be positive, even if there were a 15% drop in 
     -- As of Sept. 30, 2012, Ethan Allen had cash and marketable securities 
of $84.6 million, restricted cash and investments of $15.4 million, and 
availability of $49.4 million on its $50 million revolving credit facility, 
which is subject to a borrowing base calculation.
     -- The only financial covenant is a minimum fixed-charge coverage ratio 
that applies if borrowing availability is less than $7.5 million.
     -- Ethan Allen historically has not borrowed on its revolver, and 
indicated it currently has no plans to use the facility other than to support 
standby letters of credit, which currently total less than $1 million.
     -- Ethan Allen has minimal near-term debt maturities, and we estimate the 
company will generate FFO of more than $55 million over the next 12 months.

Recovery analysis
The issue-level rating on Ethan Allen Global's 5.375% senior unsecured notes 
due 2015 is 'BB-', the same as the corporate credit rating on parent company 
Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. The recovery rating is a '3', which is the cap for 
our recovery ratings for companies with a 'BB-' or higher corporate credit 
rating. (The company's $50 million asset-based loan revolver is not rated.) 
For the complete recovery analysis, see the recovery report on Ethan Allen to 
be published following this report on RatingsDirect. 

Our rating outlook on Ethan Allen is stable. We expect Ethan Allen to further 
improve operating performance and credit measures as its business continues to 
recover, and sustain adjusted leverage below 4x in order to maintain the 

Although unlikely over the near term, we could consider a higher rating if 
operating performance continues to improve such that the company is able to 
sustain its recent improvement in operating performance, and further improve 
credit measures, including reducing adjusted leverage well below 3x and 
increasing FFO to debt above 30%. We estimate the company could achieve this 
credit measure improvement in a scenario where sales increase by more than 5% 
and EBITDA margins improve by 150 basis points over the end of fiscal 2012.  

We could lower the ratings if operating performance weakens such that adjusted 
leverage exceeds 4.5x. We believe this could occur in a scenario in which 
sales declined by 10% and EBITDA margins contracted by 200 basis points from 
the levels at the end of fiscal 2012, perhaps due to weakening economic 
conditions and a decline in consumer spending combined with increased input 
cost inflation.

Related Criteria And Research
     -- Methodology: Business Risk/Financial Risk Matrix Expanded, Sept. 18, 
     -- Methodology And Assumptions: Liquidity Descriptors For Global 
Corporate Issuers, Sept. 28, 2011 
     -- Key Credit Factors: Business And Financial Risks In The Branded 
Consumer Products Industry, Sept. 10, 2008
     -- 2008 Corporate Criteria: Analytical Methodology, April 15, 2008

Ratings List
                           To               From
Ethan Allen Interiors Inc.
 Corporate credit rating   BB-/Stable/--    B+/Stable/--

Issue rating affirmed; recovery rating revised
Ethan Allen Global Inc.
 Senior unsecured          BB-              BB-
   Recovery rating         3                2

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