Fitch Downgrades GVO's IDR to 'B-'; Remains on Watch Negative

SAO PAULO--()--Fitch Ratings has downgraded Virgolino de Oliveira S.A. Acucar e Alcool's (GVO) and Virgolino de Oliveira Finance S/A's (Virgolino Finance) foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to 'B-' from 'B'. At the same time, GVO's long-term National Scale Rating was downgraded to 'BB+(bra)' from 'BBB(bra)'. All ratings remain on Rating Watch Negative. A complete list of rating actions follows at the end of this release.

KEY RATING DRIVERS

The downgrade is based on GVO's weaker financial profile in the volatile sugar and ethanol business, underpinned by increasing leverage ratios, low liquidity position and high short-term debt concentration. The company still faces a stressed scenario for the sugar and ethanol prices, which adds challenges to GVO to improve its operational cash flow generation in order to benefit its credit metrics. In addition, unusually dry weather conditions in Sao Paulo State in early 2014 are likely to affect agricultural yields in the 2014/2015 season.

The Watch Negative reflects Fitch's concerns about GVO's escalating debt refinancing risks. The negotiations with domestic banks to rollover its short-term debt are taking longer than expected and the amounts involved are deemed insufficient compared to the company's overall refinancing needs. The agency also considers that at the average price levels of the last 12 months GVO's current operating cash generation should be barely sufficient to cover interest expenses and the maintenance capital expenditures, leading to the necessity of increasing debt levels. The recent financial problems of another company in the sugar and ethanol business (Aralco) also negatively impact GVO's ability to raise cash.

High Refinancing Risk

GVO's liquidity is under pressure and the company's initiatives to address this issue are taking longer-than-expected to materialize. The amounts involved are also deemed insufficient compared to the company's overall refinancing needs in the coming months. Among the initiatives, only the rollover of a BRL95 million debt with Banco Votorantim has been announced, compared to a short-term debt (principal plus interest) position of BRL834 million as of Jan. 31, 2014 (including BRL467 million of the revolving Copersucar debt). The cash and marketable securities of BRL129 million remains tight and was covering only 0.15 times the short-term debt at the same date. GVO has pending negotiations with lenders, not already completed. Assuming that negotiations with those creditors go according to GVO's plan, the company will rollover additional BRL220 million of principal debt amounts due originally in 2014 and 2015. The unencumbered own land of 15,000 hectares may give some financial flexibility to GVO as the company can use it as collateral for debt issuances.

Fitch contemplates in the analysis that GVO has some flexibility related to its debt with Copersucar, as the main shareholder of this cooperative. Those loans, included in the debt amount as per Fitch's criteria, typically involve lower refinancing risks than a regular bank or capital market debt. GVO can tap its credit line with Copersucar of over BRL500 million as long as it is able to crush sugar cane and deliver sugar and ethanol to the cooperative. This facility is an important liquidity source for GVO, especially in periods of more restrictive access to credit. As of Jan. 31, 2014, GVO's debt with Copersucar was BRL534 million or 17% of total adjusted debt of BRL3.1 billion. The short-term debt with this cooperative of BRL467 million represented 56% of total short-term debt.

Increased Leverage:

GVO presents a weak financial profile underpinned by its aggressive capital structure in a volatile sector. In the last 12 months (LTM) ended Jan. 31, 2014, the company's consolidated net adjusted debt/EBITDAR ratio, considering Copersucar dividends, was 6.1x, compared with 5.1x on April 2013 and 4.8x on April 2012. Excluding advances from Copersucar backed by sugar and ethanol inventories (BRL534 million), GVO's net adjusted debt/EBITDAR would be 5.0x for the same period. This high leverage results from the combination of pressured free cash flow (FCF) due to larger capital expenditures during the last harvests, which included crop expansion to increase the contribution of owned sugar cane supply. In the LTM ended on Jan. 31, 2014, GVO's EBITDAR was BRL500 million, with the EBITDAR margin of 40% consistent within the industry.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

The failure or delay to roll over its short-term debt in the near term should place GVO on a difficult financial situation and negatively pressure the ratings. The Watch Negative may be removed should significant liquidity improvements occur.

Fitch has downgraded the following ratings of GVO and Virgolino Finance:

Virgolino de Oliveira S.A. Acucar e Alcool

--Foreign and local currency IDRs downgraded to 'B-' from 'B';

--Long term National Scale Rating downgraded to 'BB+(bra)' from 'BBB(bra)'; and

--BRL100 million Senior Unsecured debentures due 2014 to 'BB+ (bra)' from 'BBB(bra)'.

Virgolino de Oliveira Finance S/A

--USD300 million Senior Unsecured Notes due 2022 downgraded to 'B-/RR4' from 'B/RR4'; and

--Foreign and local currency IDRs downgraded to 'B-' from 'B'.

Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'.

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:

--'Corporate Rating Methodology' (May 28, 2014);

--'National Scale Ratings Criteria' (Oct. 31, 2013).

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:

Corporate Rating Methodology - Including Short-Term Ratings and Parent and Subsidiary Linkage

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=749393

National Scale Ratings Criteria

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=720082

Additional Disclosure

Solicitation Status

http://www.fitchratings.com/gws/en/disclosure/solicitation?pr_id=832048

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Contacts

Fitch Ratings
Primary Analyst
Claudio Miori
Associate Director
+55-11-4504-2207
Fitch Ratings Brasil Ltda
Alameda Santos, 700 - 7 andar, Sao Paulo, sp CEP 01418-100
or
Secondary Analyst
Alexandre Garcia
Associate Director
+55-11-4504-2616
or
Committee Chairperson
Mauro Storino
Senior Director
+55-21-4503-2625
or
Media Relations, New York
Elizabeth Fogerty, +1 212-908-0526
elizabeth.fogerty@fitchratings.com

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Contacts

Fitch Ratings
Primary Analyst
Claudio Miori
Associate Director
+55-11-4504-2207
Fitch Ratings Brasil Ltda
Alameda Santos, 700 - 7 andar, Sao Paulo, sp CEP 01418-100
or
Secondary Analyst
Alexandre Garcia
Associate Director
+55-11-4504-2616
or
Committee Chairperson
Mauro Storino
Senior Director
+55-21-4503-2625
or
Media Relations, New York
Elizabeth Fogerty, +1 212-908-0526
elizabeth.fogerty@fitchratings.com