Moody’s Investors Service has assigned a Baa1 rating to Sura Asset Management S.A.’s recently issued $350 million USD of senior unsecured notes that are due in 2027. The ratings outlook for the notes is stable.
Issuance of the notes, proceeds from which “will be used to repay indebtedness under existing credit facilities and for general corporate purposes,” according to Moody’s, will have four subsidiaries of Sura Asset Management as guarantors: Sura Asset Management Chile, Sura Asset Management Mexico, Sura Asset Management Peru, and Sura Asset Management Uruguay. Their guarantee covers Sura’s payment obligations and the “indenture jointly and severally, irrevocably and unconditionally, on a senior unsecured basis,” said the New York-based rating agency in its analysis.
Moody’s ratings are based upon Sura Asset Management’s status the leading pension fund manager in Latin America, which gives the company wide client coverage and large scale. Favorable demographics in the region — which is seeing higher salaries and more workplace formalization — also put Sura in an advantageous position.
Moody’s did highlight its concern about the growth of Sura Assset Management’s leverage in recent years, however. The firm’s adjusted debt/earnings (EBITDA) ratio rose to 2.5x by the end of 2016 compared to just 1.6x at the end of 2014. Though this has largely been caused by the currency devaluations throughout Latin America and market volatility — rather than operational factors — Moody’s does view the increase as troubling.
“If financial leverage were to remain at this elevated level, Sura would likely see downward pressure on its current ratings,” stated Moody’s. It did also point out that this is tempered by a “relatively good pre-tax income margin of above 30% in recent years, which is higher than similarly rated peers.”
But as with the leverage question, the company is ultimately constrained by its “relatively limited geographic and product diversification” compared to its global peers. “The rating also considers the relatively limited development of the capital markets and the relatively weaker operating environments in some of the countries in which Sura Asset Management operates,” wrote Moody’s.