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Analysts flag income gains for mining giants in 2017

Flying Into The Danger Zone; Norwegian Air Shuttle

Banking

Street Talk Episode 39 - A New Era For Blockbuster Bank M&A

Advertising Market Growth Unable To Keep Up With Strong GDP

Street Talk Episode 38 - PG&E Bankruptcy Reveals Climate Change Risk Facing Calif. Utilities


Analysts flag income gains for mining giants in 2017

TOP NEWS

Analysts forecast income gains in 2017 for mining giants

On the back of a recent rally in commodity prices, BHP Billiton Group, Rio Tinto, Vale SA and Glencore Plc may earn a combined US$26 billion in the six months through December, a two-year high and up 40% from the first half, according to forecasts compiled by Bloomberg News. Meanwhile, analysts see more income gains in 2017, which would bolster balance sheets and enable mining companies to pursue acquisitions, increase dividends and reduce debt.

Fortescue to develop Eliwana iron ore deposits

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. seems to have decided to develop its Eliwana iron ore deposits in Western Australia, The West Australian reported. The US$1.5 billion project will replace the company's 27 million-tonne-per-year Firetail iron ore mine.

Antam to exceed FY'16 ferronickel, gold output targets

PT Antam (Persero) Tbk expects full-year 2016 production of ferronickel and gold, its two main commodities, to exceed the company's targets. Ferronickel production reached 20,080 tonnes of nickel contained in ferronickel, as of the beginning of the last week of December, compared to the full-year 2016 target of 18,500 tonnes of nickel contained in ferronickel.

DIVERSIFIED

* The principal owner of iron ore producer AO Holding Co. METALLOINVEST, Alisher Usmanov, said he is still considering a proposal to form a Russian metals and mining giant by combining Metalloinvest and PJSC MMC Norilsk Nickel, Reuters reported, citing Usmanov's interview with Rossiya-24 TV network.

BASE METALS

* Analysts see an extremely tough 2017 for Chinese zinc smelters due to depressed concentrate supply and lower demand growth for the metal, Metal Bulletin reported. Meanwhile, the competition for business amid higher smelting capacity is weighing on treatment charges, impacting profitability at the smelters.

* Codelco's share in the world molybdenum market will decline from 55% to 49% in 2017, although the Chilean state miner would remain a global leader, according to a report by the Chilean Copper Commission, daily Pulso reported.

* Pacific Ridge Exploration Ltd. agreed to option a 100% interest in the Fyre Lake copper-gold-cobalt massive sulfide deposit in Canada's Yukon Territory to BMC Minerals (No. 1) Ltd., a Canadian subsidiary of BMC (UK) Ltd.

PRECIOUS METALS

* The Russian government received two bids during the auction for the Sukhoi Log gold deposit in Russia, Reuters reported, citing Interfax. The bids were from SL Gold and Zoloto Bodaibo, and bidding is now closed. SL Gold is a joint venture between PJSC Polyus and Rostec Corp.

* Centerra Gold Inc. received all the necessary permits and approvals for its 2017 mine plan for the Kumtor gold project in Kyrgyzstan.

* OceanaGold Corp. started milling operations at its Haile gold mine in South Carolina. The company expects to produce 150,000 ounces to 170,000 ounces of gold at Haile in 2017 at all-in sustaining costs of between US$500 per ounce and US$550 per ounce.

* Barrick Gold Corp. postponed its decision over whether to continue or stop operations at its Lama mine, part of the Pascua Lama project in Argentina's San Juan province, until February next year, sources told daily Diario del Cuyo.

* Vital Metals Ltd. intersected gold and copper mineralization at the Peninsula copper prospect and the Elephant Creek gold project in Queensland, Australia. Assay results included 9 meters at 1.48 g/t gold at Elephant Creek and up to 16.7% copper at the Peninsula copper prospect.

* A court in Perth, Australia, imposed a A$65,000 fine on the contractor for the ball mill at the Newmont Mining Corp.'s Boddington gold mine in Western Australia over an incident that left a worker severely injured in July 2012, the Australian Associated Press reported.

* The Shangahi Gold Exchange plans to lower the offer limit to 500 kilograms from 1,000 kilograms on some spot gold contracts starting next year, Reuters reported.

* Hummingbird Resources Plc appointed Ausdrill Ltd. subsidiary African Mining Services as the mining contractor for its Yanfolila gold project in Mali. Mine construction is underway, and first gold pour is expected to occur in 2017.

* Workers of Aruntani SAC decided to hold a peaceful protest Jan. 10, 2017, in the city of Puno in Peru to support their claim for higher wages and other economic benefits, daily Diario Correo reported.

* Monument Mining Ltd. secured a six-month exclusive option to acquire a 51% stake in the Matala gold project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Panex Resources Inc.

* Taung Gold International Ltd. struck a deal to acquire an exploration license for copper, gold and other minerals in Pakistan for HK$146 million. Separately, Taung Gold selected MCC International Inc. Ltd. to negotiate an EPC contract to develop the EL127 exploration license in Pakistan.

* Fairmont Resources Inc. was granted an extension until Feb. 22, 2017, to pay for its €4.3 million acquisition of the assets of Granitos de Badajoz SA.

BULK COMMODITIES

* China Construction Bank Corp. agreed to swap nearly 30 billion Chinese yuan worth of debt for equity in the state-controlled coal and steel companies in the eastern Anhui province, Reuters wrote, citing Xinhua News Agency. The bank signed deals with Huainan Mining Industry (Group) Co. Ltd., Huaibei Mining Group and Magang (Group) Holding, the parent of Maanshan Iron & Steel Co. Ltd., among others. The bank will also provide Huainan Mining, Huaibei Mining and Wanbei Coal-Electricity Group with more than 30 billion yuan of credit in the next five years.

* Rio Tinto awarded a A$50 million contract to Decmil Group for its Amrun bauxite project in Queensland, The West Australian reported. The contract involves the design, fabrication, supply, delivery, construction, installation, testing and commissioning of the mine infrastructure area at the project.

* Inner Mongolia Yitai Coal Co. Ltd. agreed to acquire a 27% stake in the Baoshan coal project in China from Beijing Jielongda for 129 million yuan. Upon completion, the company will own a 100% stake in Baoshan. Separately, the company also agreed to sell a 36% stake in the Tongda coal project to Ordos Huijiabao Investment Co., Ltd. for 129 million yuan.

* China Coal Energy Co. Ltd. subsidiary Shanghai Energy Co. entered an agreement with Datun Coal and Electricity to transfer the assets and liabilities of the Longdong coal mine, including the coal preparation plant to Datun Coal, for nearly 237 million yuan.

* Prophecy Development Corp. signed two agreements to sell 16,000 tonnes of coal sourced from its wholly owned Ulaan Ovoo coal mine in Mongolia. The company will sell 10,000 tonnes to Erdenet Mining Corp. and 6,000 tonnes to Selenge Energo Heat Plant.

* Recent reports about a potential reduction in the import duty imposed on flat steel products by Iran has led to a trading halt, Metal Bulletin wrote. The exact date for the regulation to take effect is unclear, so potential customers took a wait-and-see position.

* Vietnam's Ministry of Industry and Trade extended the deadline by two months for its final decision in its safeguarding probe into imports of prepainted galvanized steel, Metal Bulletin reported.

* Kompania Weglowa SA's Makoszowy coal mine in Poland, which will cease operations this week, sold coal worth 129 million Polish zlotys in 2016 while also receiving 138 million zlotys of budget subsidies for production losses, Puls Biznesu reported, citing information from Mine Restructuring Co.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* With less than three months until the Western Australian election, it is still unclear as to what the two major political parties will do to bolster the state's resources sector. While the Liberal Party appears to have no clear mandate, the Labor Party has outlined its plan to introduce the Skilled Local Jobs Bill to support the growth of jobs in industries complementary to the resource sector.

* The government of Argentina's Chubut province will conduct a popular consultation process for citizens to decide whether to remove or keep the current ban on open-pit operations under Law 5001, daily El Inversor Energético reported.

* Bolivia's mining exports grew 3.5% year over year between January and November, totaling US$1.68 billion, daily El Diario reported.

* Zambia is withholding 2.4 billion Zambian kwacha of the 5 billion kwacha owed to mining companies in tax refunds, as firms have not provided the correct documentation, Reuters reported, citing the Zambia Revenue Authority.

* The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a final rule, effective April 1, 2017, barring national banks and federal savings associations from dealing or investing in industrial or commercial metals.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 7 a.m. ET, and scans news sources published in Chinese, English, Indonesian, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Ukrainian. Some external links may require a subscription.


Credit Analysis
Flying Into The Danger Zone; Norwegian Air Shuttle

Highlights

This analysis was published by S&P Global Market Intelligence and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global. This is not investment advice or a stock suggestion.

Feb. 13 2019 — The headwinds are picking up for Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA (“Norwegian”), the eighth largest airline in Europe. The carrier has been battling with rising fuels costs, increased competition from legacy carriers, and persistent aircraft operational issues. Norwegian’s problems are a continuation of what have been turbulent months for budget airlines in Europe resulting in a collapse of Primera Air, based in Denmark, near-default of WOW air, Iceland’s budget carrier, and most recently bankruptcy of Germania.

When we pull back the curtain and review the creditworthiness of European airlines to explore further some of the causes for Norwegian’s turbulent period, we see Norwegian’s business strategy and financial structure have made the carrier highly exposed. Coupled with the traditionally slow winter season, the airline may have to navigate through the storm clouds forming on the horizon.

A View From Above

S&P Global Market Intelligence has developed CreditModelTM Corporates 2.6 (CM2.6), a statistical model trained on credit ratings from our sister division, S&P Global Ratings. The model combines multiple financial ratios to generate a quantitative credit score and offers an automated solution to efficiently assess the credit risk of both public and private companies globally.1 Within CreditModel, the airline industry is treated as a separate global sub-model to better encompass the unique characteristics of this industry.

Figure 1 shows the overview of S&P Global Market Intelligence credit scores obtained using CreditModel for European airlines. Norwegian’s weak position translate into the weakest credit score among its competitors. The implied ‘ccc+’ credit score suggests that Norwegian is vulnerable to adverse business, financial, or economic conditions, and its financial commitments appear to be unsustainable in the long term. In addition to Norwegian, Flybe and Croatian Airlines rank among the riskiest carriers in Europe and share a similar credit risk assessment. The airlines with the best credit scores are also Europe’s biggest airlines (Lufthansa, Ryanair, International Airlines Group (IAG), and easyJet). The exception among the top five European airlines is Air France-KLM, which is crippled by labour disputes and its inability to reshape operations and improve performance.

Figure 1: Credit Risk Radar of European Airspace
Overview of credit scores for European airlines

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. For illustrative purposes only.
Note: IAG operates under the British Airways, Iberia, Vueling, LEVEL, IAG Cargo, Avios, and Aer Lingus brands. (January 3, 2019)

S&P Global Market Intelligence’s sister division, S&P Global Ratings, issued an industry outlook for airlines in 2019 noting that the industry is poised for stability.2 It stated the global air traffic remains strong and is growing above its average rate at more than 6% annually. The report also cited rising interest rates dampening market liquidity while increasing the cost of debt refinancing and aircraft leases. Oil prices are expected to settle, and any further gradual increases in oil prices are expected to be compensated by rising airfares and fees. The most significant risks for airlines are geopolitical. Potential downside scenarios include a crisis in the Middle East or other disruptions in oil, causing oil prices to spike. The possibility of trade wars and uncertainty surrounding the Brexit withdrawal agreement represent additional sources of potential disruption or weakening in travel demand.

Flying into the danger zone

Although Norwegian has so far dismissed any notion of financial distress as speculation, it has simultaneously implemented a series of changes to prevent further turbulence.3 The airline announced a $230mm cost-saving program that included discontinuing selected routes, refinancing new aircraft deliveries, divesting a portion of the existing fleet, and offering promotional fares to passengers to shore up liquidity.

In Figure 2, we rank Norwegian’s financial ratios within the global airline industry and benchmark them against a selected set of competitor European budget carriers (Ryanair, easyJet, and Wizz Air). Through this chart, we can conclude that Norwegian’s underlying problems are persistent and the company’s financial results are weak. Norwegian’s business model of rapid growth and a debt-heavy capital structure have resulted in severe stress for its financials. Norwegian ranks among the bottom 10% of the worst airlines in the industry on debt coverage ratios, margins, and profitability. This is in sharp contrast to other European budget carriers, which are often ranked among the best in the industry. On the flip side, Norwegian’s high level of owned assets represents its strong suit and gives the carrier some flexibility to adjust its operations and improve performance in the future.

Figure 2: Flying at Low Altitude
Norwegian’s financial ratios are among the worst in the industry

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. For illustrative purposes only. (January 3, 2019)
Note: Presented financial ratios are used in CreditModelTM Corporates 2.6 (Airlines) to generate quantitative credit score in Figure 1.

Faster, Higher, Farther

Norwegian has undergone a rapid expansion in recent years, introducing new routes and flying over longer distances. Between 2008 and 2018, the carrier quadrupled its fleet from 40 to 164 planes.4 This enabled it to fly more passengers and become the third largest budget airline in Europe, behind Ryanair and easyJet. However, unlike its low-cost rivals, Norwegian ventured into budget long-haul flights. After establishing its new base at London Gatwick, it started operating services to the U.S., South-East Asia, and South America.

As a result of this expansion, Norwegian’s capacity as measured by available seat kilometres (ASK) and traffic as measured by revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) grew nine-fold between 2008 and 2018, as depicted in Figure 3. By offering deeply discounted fares, the carrier was able to attract more passengers and significantly grow its revenues, which were expected to reach $5bn in 2018. However, to be able to support this rapid growth, Norwegian accumulated a significant amount of debt and highly increased its financial leverage. This rising debt is putting Norwegian under pressure to secure enough liquidity to repay maturing debt obligations.

Figure 3: Shooting for the Stars
Norwegian’s rapid growth propelled by debt

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. All figures are converted into U.S. dollars using historic exchange rates. Figures for 2018 are estimated based on annualized YTD 2018 figures. For illustrative purposes only. (January 3, 2019)

Norwegian’s strategy to outpace growing debt obligations by driving revenue growth is coming under pressure. The data tells us that expansion to the long-haul market and the undercutting of competitors to gain market share proved to be costly and negatively impacted Norwegian’s bottom line. Operational performance, measured as unit revenue (passenger revenue per ASK) and yield (passenger revenue per RPK), have been slipping continuously since 2008, as depicted in Figure 4. Negative free operating cash flow required Norwegian to continuously find new sources of capital to finance its operations, and profitability suffered. The carrier was able to ride a tailwind of low oil prices and cheap financing for a while, however, the winds seem to be turning.

Figure 4: Gravitational Pull
Slipping operational and financial performance

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence, Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA: “Annual Report 2017”, Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA: “Interim report - Third quarter 2018”. Figures for 2018 are estimated based on annualized YTD 2018 figures. For illustrative purposes only. (January 3, 2019)

Norwegian’s plan to outrun a looming mountain of debt obligations is resulting in a turbulent flight. While growing its top line, the carrier has been unable to convert increased capacity and traffic into consistent profit. With a stable industry outlook and cost-cutting measures in place, Norwegian lives to fly another day. However, any additional operational issues or adverse macroeconomic developments could send Norwegian deep into the danger zone.

Learn more about S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Credit Analytics models.
Learn more about S&P Global Market Intelligence’s RatingsDirect®.

S&P Global Market Intelligence leverages leading experience in developing credit risk models to achieve a high level of accuracy and robust out-of-sample model performance. The integration of Credit Analytics’ models into the S&P Capital IQ platform enables users to access a global pre-scored database with more than 45,000 public companies and almost 700,000 private companies, obtain credit scores for single or multiple companies, and perform scenario analysis.

S&P Global Market Intelligence’s RatingsDirect® product is the official desktop source for S&P Global Ratings’ credit ratings and research. S&P Global Ratings’ research cited in this blog is available on RatingsDirect®.

1 S&P Global Ratings does not contribute to or participate in the creation of credit scores generated by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Lowercase nomenclature is used to differentiate S&P Global Market Intelligence PD credit model scores from the credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings.
2 S&P Global Ratings: “Industry Top Trends 2019: Transportation”, November 14, 2018. https://www.capitaliq.com/CIQDotNet/CreditResearch/viewPDF.aspx?pdfId=36541&from=Research.
3 Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, “Update from Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA”, press release, December 24, 2018 (accessed January 3, 2019), https://media.uk.norwegian.com/pressreleases/update-from-norwegian-air-shuttle-asa-2817995.
4 Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA: “Investor Presentation Norwegian Air Shuttle”, September 2018.

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Tesla Contemplates Going Private; But Who Is Going to Power Its Batteries

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Sears Strikes Out What Is In Store For Other Retailers In The US

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Listen: Street Talk Episode 39 - A New Era For Blockbuster Bank M&A

Feb. 08 2019 — The days of large bank buyers pursuing deals to plant a flag in a new market might be gone with acquirers now seeing deals as a way to support investments in technology. BB&T touted that prospect when discussing its landmark merger of equals with SunTrust. In the episode, we spoke with S&P Global Market Intelligence colleagues Zach Fox and Joe Mantone about the drivers of BB&T/SunTrust merger, how much i-banks advising on the deal stand to earn and the prospect of other similarly sized transactions emerging in the future.

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No content (including ratings, credit-related analyses and data, valuations, model, software or other application or output therefrom) or any part thereof (Content) may be modified, reverse engineered, reproduced or distributed in any form by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC or its affiliates (collectively, S&P).


Technology, Media & Telecom
Advertising Market Growth Unable To Keep Up With Strong GDP

Feb. 07 2019 — Cable and broadcast are losing their dominance in the viewing world. As more eyeballs migrate to online and mobile viewing, major media companies are struggling to adopt a common measurement system. Their goal is to track and consolidate the leaked viewers who have been switching first from analog, with a full ad load, to DVR, which lets them skip ads, and now to digital with limited or no advertising.

Click here for advertising market projections in Excel format.

The business models of the online services differ, with the majority of viewers still watching ads, albeit in much smaller pods. Others have voted with their wallets, paying a premium to view content on Hulu and other platforms without any advertising at all. Hulu with ads is only $5.99, while the subscription without ads is twice the price at $11.99. Clearly, viewers are willing to pay a premium for the privilege of not having to watch ads.

Although the broadcast networks have been somewhat flat for some time, the cable network industry has only recently had to cope with the reality that its heyday is over. After decades of showing strong single- or double-digit growth, cable networks have seen growth slow over the past five years to a range of just 3% to negative 1%.

A number of issues have been impacting cable networks, most notably cord cutting and cord shaving, with companies that are big in the children's market suffering disproportionately. Viacom Inc. was the first to show significant weakness: Gross ad revenue at its behemoth Nickelodeon peaked at nearly $1.3 billion in 2010 and 2011, then dropped to $1.10 billion in 2012. Nickelodeon's average 24-hour rating slipped from 1.44 in 2011 to 1.13 in 2012.

The company recovered slightly to a 1.2 rating in 2013 but has struggled significantly since then, with its overall rating at just 0.74 in 2017.

Parent company Viacom posted zero to negative ad revenue growth from the second quarter of 2014 all the way through the third quarter of 2018, an unprecedented negative run.

By contrast, the other cable network owners posted mixed results, but none have been as consistently negative as Viacom. The timing of big sporting events, especially the Olympics, contributes to much of the volatility at the various networks.

Broadcast and cable combined, including both local and national spots, increased ad revenue market share from 24% in 1988 to 32% in 2018. This was a strong showing given that cable alone rose from a less than 2% share in 1988 to almost 15% in 2018.

Overall, the ad market has continued to grow, mostly due to the popularity of digital spots. However, growth in the U.S. advertising market has been unable to maintain its historical trend of growing in lockstep with the gross domestic product, equating to approximately 2% of GDP.

Its share of GDP was generally in that range until the Great Recession, which pushed that metric from 1.8% in 2007 to 1.6% in 2008 and to 1.4% in 2009. In 2017, we estimate this fell as low as 1.2% with no sign that it can recover to the 2.0% range.

Although the growth of digital has been positive for the ad industry, there have been many less encouraging stories, particularly related to print, which shrank from 67.4% of the market in 1988 to just 41.1% in 2018.

Even after this dramatic shift over several decades left print with a much smaller base, all forms of print continue to struggle. Although the numbers below for the print sector do not include their digital operations, few companies have been able to offset the decline in traditional media with online initiatives.

Much of their revenue has been devoured by the usual internet giants such as Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC and Facebook Inc. Even companies with disruptive business models targeting the younger generation, such as VICE Media LLC, have struggled.

We do not expect this to change much in our five-year outlook, although digital is certainly entering a mature phase. In 2023, we expect satellite radio to be growing the fastest, albeit from a much smaller base, and digital — although still in the No. 2 spot — is expected to grow at only 4.1% per year, down significantly from the 10.9% growth rate we expect for 2019.

Print is expected to continue to struggle, with Yellow Pages hit the hardest, declining at more than 16% per year. We do not expect most of these paper directories to survive over the long term, with the exception of those with very narrow niche audiences, such as small directories delivered to hotels in resort towns.

Digital has had remarkable progress, with a CAGR of 16.8% from $22.65 billion in 2009 to $91.89 billion in 2018. In sharp contrast, direct mail, the largest ad category in 2009, shrank from $44.50 billion in 2009 to $37.50 billion in 2018. The CAGR of decline has been modest at negative 1.9%.

Direct mail is now in third place with market share of 14.7% in 2018 versus 22.3% in 2009, behind digital at 35.9% and cable TV at 14.8%. The biggest slides occurred in Yellow Pages, which have fallen at a CAGR of negative 19.7% from a 5.5% share in 2009 to less than 1% in 2018; and daily newspapers, which contracted at a negative 11.8% CAGR from 12.4% in 2009 to 4.0% in 2018.

For a lengthy analysis which also includes an analysis of performance of the local ad market versus national, refer to the Economics of Advertising, or Click here.

Economics of Advertising is a regular feature from Kagan, a group within S&P Global Market Intelligence's TMT offering, providing exclusive research and commentary.

This article was published by S&P Global Market Intelligence and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.

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Listen: Street Talk Episode 38 - PG&E Bankruptcy Reveals Climate Change Risk Facing Calif. Utilities

Feb. 06 2019 — The PG&E Corp. bankruptcy shows that financial backers of California utilities need to consider the risks associated with climate change but that exposure might be unique to entities operating in the state. In the episode, Regulatory Research Associates analysts Dan Lowrey and Dennis Sperduto discuss the next steps in PG&E's bankruptcy process, the future of its power purchase agreements and the risks that climate change can bring to backing utilities.

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No content (including ratings, credit-related analyses and data, valuations, model, software or other application or output therefrom) or any part thereof (Content) may be modified, reverse engineered, reproduced or distributed in any form by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC or its affiliates (collectively, S&P).