KazMunaiGas ratings lowered to 'BB+' after sovereign downgrade; Outlook negative - S&P
Almaty. February 18. KazTAG - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said that it had lowered its long-term corporate credit ratings on Kazakhstan-government-controlled vertically integrated oil company KazMunayGas
NC JSC (KMG) and core subsidiary KazMunaiGas Exploration Production JSC (KMG EP) to 'BB+' from 'BBB-'. The outlook is negative.
"At the same time, we lowered the Kazakhstan national scale rating to 'kzAA-' from 'kzAA'," said the agency.
The downgrade reflects KMG's status as a government-related entity (GRE) with an "extremely high" likelihood of receiving government support if in need.
KMG is a 100% government-owned national oil company with stakes in essentially all of Kazakhstan's oil-related assets and priority access to new assets,
which also benefit from vertical integration into pipelines.
"In line with our methodology for rating GREs, we view KMG's role in the country's economy as "critical." In our view, if KMG were to default, this
would have strong negative implications for the government of Kazakhstan and for other GREs in the country. KMG holds stakes in all significant oil operations in Kazakhstan. It is one of the country's largest exporters and taxpayers and has some social mandates such as supplying the local market with
fuel at fairly low prices and investing in socially important projects. Still, KMG is responsible for only about 28% of the country's oil production (12% if
only majority-owned operations are included)," said the agency.
"We view KMG's link to the Kazakhstan government as "very strong" because the government and political support have helped KMG obtain attractive financing
terms for its investments in the past, including refinery upgrade projects and a number of acquisitions. The government's large liquidity reserves and low
debt underpin its ability to support KMG. At the same time, KMG's strong links with the government put pressure on its stand-alone credit profile (SACP)
because most of its capital expenditure and acquisitions reflect its role as a national champion in the oil and gas sector, but were financed with
company-level debt," said the experts.
Most of KMG's majority-owned oil production assets are mature and lack growth prospects, its refineries are relatively old, and the company only has
minority stakes in the country's most profitable and young oil projects (such as 20% in Tengiz Chevroil and 10% in Karachaganak). At the same time, KMG's
debt is relatively large compared with the size of Kazakhstan's economy. This puts further pressure on the company's credit profile.
The negative outlook on KMG mirrors the outlook on Kazakhstan. "If we were to lower our rating on Kazakhstan, we expect to lower the rating on
KMG. This is because of the uplift we include in the long-term rating on KMG to reflect our expectation of an "extremely high" likelihood of government
support for the company," reads the report.