Fitch revises Yerevan City's outlook to negative; affirms 'BB-'

20.04.2020 17:28
Fitch revises Yerevan City's outlook to negative; affirms 'BB-'

YEREVAN, April 20. /ARKA/. Fitch Ratings has revised Yerevan City's Outlook to Negative from Stable, while affirming the city's Long-Term Foreign- and Local-Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) at 'BB-'. A full list of rating actions is below.

The revision of Outlook follows a recent similar action on the sovereign ratings of Armenia (see ' Fitch Revises Outlook on Armenia to Negative; Affirms at 'BB-' dated 3 April 2020 on www.fitchratings.com), due to expected negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the national economy. We view the city's ratings as being capped by the sovereign's.

CRA DEVIATION

Under EU credit rating agency (CRA) regulation, the publication of local and regional governments' (LRGs) reviews is subject to restrictions and must take place according to a published schedule, except where it is necessary for CRAs to deviate from this in order to comply with their legal obligations. Fitch interprets this provision as allowing us to publish a rating review in situations where there is a material change in the creditworthiness of the issuer that we believe makes it inappropriate for us to wait until the next scheduled review date to update the rating or Outlook/Watch status. The next scheduled review date for Fitch's rating on Yerevan City is 22 May 2020, but Fitch believes that recent developments in the country warrant such a deviation from the calendar and our rationale for this is laid out below.

While Yerevan City's most recently available data may not have indicated performance impairment, material changes in revenue and cost profiles are occurring across the sector and likely to worsen in the coming months as economic activity suffers and government restrictions are maintained or broadened. Fitch's ratings are forward-looking in nature, and we will monitor developments in the sector for their severity and duration, and incorporate revised base- and rating-case qualitative and quantitative inputs based on performance expectations and assessment of key risks.

KEY RATING DRIVERS

The rating action reflects the following key rating drivers and their relative weights:

HIGH

Sovereign Cap

Yerevan's IDRs are capped by those of Armenia (BB-/Negative) as our assessment of the city's standalone credit profile (SCP) remains unchanged at 'bbb-' since the last review on 2 December 2019.

LOW

Risk Profile: Weaker

Fitch has assessed Yerevan City' risk profile as 'Weaker' reflecting a 'Weaker' assessment for four key factors - revenue robustness and adjustability; expenditure adjustability; and liabilities and liquidity flexibility. The other attributes, expenditure sustainability and liabilities and liquidity robustness, are assessed as 'Midrange'.

Debt Sustainability Assessment: 'aaa'

According to our rating case, Yerevan's debt payback ratio (net direct risk-to-operating balance) - the primary metric of debt sustainability assessment - will remain strong over the next five years due to sufficient cash and expected low debt. The secondary metrics, fiscal debt burden measured as net adjusted debt-to-operating revenue, and actual debt-servicing coverage ratio, are assessed at 'aaa'. This leads to the city's overall debt sustainability assessment at 'aaa'.

DERIVATION SUMMARY

Under the new Rating Criteria for International Local and Regional Governments (LRGs), Fitch classifies Yerevan City as a Type B LRG, which is required to cover debt service from cash flow on an annual basis. The assessment of four 'Weaker' key factors and two 'Midrange' key factors resulted in overall assessment of the city's risk profile as 'Weaker' under the risk profile guidance in our criteria.
Yerevan's SCP of 'bbb-' reflects a combination of a 'Weaker' risk profile and a 'aaa' debt sustainability. The SCP also factors in international peer comparison. Fitch does not apply any asymmetric risk or extraordinary support from the national government, while the city's IDR remains capped by that of the sovereign.

KEY ASSUMPTIONS

Qualitative assumptions and assessments and their respective change since the last review on 2 December 2019 and weight in the rating decision:

Risk Profile: Weaker, unchanged with Low weight

Revenue Robustness: Weaker, unchanged with Low weight

Revenue Adjustability: Weaker, unchanged with Low weight

Expenditure Sustainability: Midrange, unchanged with Low weight

Expenditure Adjustability: Weaker, unchanged with Low weight

Liabilities and Liquidity Robustness: Midrange, unchanged with Low weight

Liabilities and Liquidity Flexibility: Weaker, unchanged with Low weight

Debt sustainability: 'aaa' category unchanged with Low weight

Extraordinary Support: n/a

Asymmetric Risk: n/a

Sovereign cap: Yes, weakening with High weight

Quantitative Assumptions - Issuer-Specific

Fitch's rating case is a "through-the-cycle" scenario, which incorporates a combination of revenue, cost and financial risk stresses. It is based on 2015-2019 figures and 2020-2024 projected ratios.

The key assumptions for the scenario include:

  • 5.7% yoy increase in operating revenue on average in 2019-2023, including a 4.2% increase in taxes, 6.3% increase in non-tax revenue and 6.7% increase in current transfers; and
  • 15.4% yoy increase in operating spending on average in 2019-2023.

Figures as per Fitch's sovereign forecast for 2020 and 2021, respectively:

  • Real GDP growth (%): -0.5, 5.5
  • Consumer prices (annual average % change): 0.5, 3.5
  • General government balance (% of GDP): -5.5, -3.5
  • General government debt (% of GDP): 59.2, 56
  • Current account balance plus net FDI (% of GDP): -7.1, -5.8
  • Net external debt (% of GDP): 53, 52.9
  • IMF Development Classification: EM
  • CDS Market Implied Rating: n/a

RATING SENSITIVITIES

Factors that may, individually or collectively, lead to negative rating action/downgrade:

  • A downgrade of Armenia's IDRs; and
  • A multiple-notch revision of the city's SCP below 'bb-', which could be driven by material deterioration of Yerevan's debt metrics, particularly a debt payback sustainably above 5x accompanied by fiscal debt burden overshooting 50% under Fitch's rating case.
    Factors that may, individually or collectively, lead to positive rating action/upgrade:
  • An upgrade/outlook revision to Stable of Armenia's IDRs. -0-

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