Kazakhtelecom outlook revised to stable from positive; 'BB' ratings affirmed

Date: 11:43, 18-02-2015.

Almaty. February 18. KazTAG -Standard & Poor's Ratings Services  revised the outlook on Kazakhstan-based telecommunications operator  Kazakhtelecom to stable from positive. We affirmed the 'BB' long-term foreign and local currency corporate credit rating and the 'kzA+' Kazakhstan national
scale rating.
"The outlook revision on Kazakhtelecom reflects our view that a positive rating action on the company will be unlikely in the next 12 to 18 months. The affirmation of the ratings on Kazakhtelecom follows improvement in the company's management and governance practices. In our opinion, Kazakhtelecom is implementing its mobile business strategy in a more credible and predictable way, and has secured a 10-year Kazakhstani tenge (KZT)37 billion (approximately $200 million) loan from the Kazakh Development Bank to support the rollout of its nationwide 4G network, which will require meaningful investment. We have therefore revised our management and governance assessment on the company to "fair" from "weak" and, as a result, we are raising our stand-alone credit profile (SACP) on Kazakhtelecom to 'bb' from 'bb-'," said the agency.
"We continue to view Kazakhtelecom as a government-related entity (GRE) and view the likelihood of timely and sufficient extraordinary financial support from the Kazakhstani government, if needed, as "moderate." Nevertheless, following the lowering of the sovereign rating to 'BBB', we no longer confer a one-notch uplift for state support into the long-term rating on Kazakhtelecom, in accordance with our criteria," said the experts.
The stable outlook reflects expectation that Kazakhtelecom's credit metrics will remain commensurate with the revised 'bb' SACP, including a ratio of Standard & Poor's-adjusted debt to EBITDA of below 2x, and that its liquidity will remain adequate.
"We could revise the outlook to negative if Kazakhtelecom's leverage were to increase well above our base-case scenario expectations as a result of higher
investments or extraordinary dividend distribution," said the agency.

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