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Uralkali places US$500M debt as peak repayments close in

Heavily indebted Russian potash producer PJSC Uralkali placed US$500 million of five-year eurobonds at 4%, VTB Capital, a joint bookrunner of the sale, confirmed to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Uralkali declined to comment on the placement, but demand for the notes reached over US$1 billion, according to VTB. As a result, the initial yield guidance of 4.375% was lowered to between 4.125% and 4.25% and subsequently to between 4.0% and 4.125%.

The sale represents the lowest coupon for a five-year placement of Russian corporate issuers' eurobonds with a comparable investment rating, according to Andrey Solovyev, the state-owned investment bank's global head of debt capital markets. Solovyev also highlighted the transaction's low spread of 241 basis points, 40 basis points lower than Uralkali's previous eurobond issue.

As of June 30, Russia's largest potash miner had net debt of US$4.69 billion, while its market cap as of Oct. 16 was about US$2.35 billion.

The company booked a net loss of US$97.0 million for 2018, swinging from US$874.6 million in 2017, with revenue slipping to US$2.75 billion from US$2.76 billion as net foreign exchange losses plunged to US$737.7 million from gains of US$271.9 million a year ago.

Uralkali faces a peak in debt maturities with repayments of US$1.5 billion and US$1.15 billion due in 2020 and 2021, respectively, Interfax reported, citing the company's eurobond prospectus.

S&P Global Ratings revised Uralkali's outlook from stable to positive in April at the speculative BB- level on the basis of improving fertilizer prices and a weakened Russian ruble. This level of rating does not indicate a high near-term default risk, Ratings credit analyst Anton Geyze said.

Rating agencies Moody's and Fitch revised their respective outlooks on Uralkali's debt to positive from stable, the company said earlier in October.

Emerging markets news outlet bne IntelliNews reported Oct. 7 that Uralkali and related chemicals group Uralchem are facing bankruptcy in the coming year, citing a report from what the outlet described as the "Moscow Centre for Analytics, Research, Strategies and Technologies." Both companies are controlled by Russian businessman Dmitry Mazepin and have together accumulated more than US$11 billion of debt while running at various degrees of loss in recent years.

Top Russian ammonium nitrate producer Uralchem's net debt stood at US$3.99 billion at the end of August, according to CFO Igor Bulantsev. The company, which owns 20.3% of Uralkali, is discussing various options for refinancing its debt with banks.

"Uralkali's financial position has been improving," VTB Capital Deputy Head of Research Elena Sakhnova told Market Intelligence. "I would not question their creditworthiness."

The last quarter of 2019 and the first half of 2020 will be difficult for the company, though, as German rival K+S AG has ramped up in Canada and EuroChem Group AG will deliver its first million tonnes of potash to the market this year, Sakhnova added.

Sakhnova expects prices in China, where inventories are large, and India to fall by at least US$10 per tonne. "Therefore we expect several weak quarters to come. But while Uralkali profits would be under pressure, the company will be able to comfortably service its debt."