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Fitch Affirms BDEL's Commercial Paper/Short-Term Debt Programme At 'F1+(ind)'

Announcement  |  Banking 

Fitch Ratings has today affirmed India-based Blue Dart Express's (BDEL) commercial paper/short term debt programme of INR300m at 'F1+(ind)'.

The rating reflects the leadership position of Blue Dart in India's business-to-business, high-margin express courier business and its comfortable leverage and liquidity position. In FY08, about 40% of BDEL's revenue derived from the courier documents business. It also has a strong presence in the business-to-business (B2B) segment, as over 80% of its customers are corporate clients. BDEL's Q109 revenues declined y-o-y due to a general slowdown in business activity. (Fitch notes that Blue Dart Aviation ((BDA)), an associate company of BDEL, maintains an aircraft fleet and cargo terminals which it operates exclusively for BDEL.)

The rating also considers BDEL's linkages with its parent, Deutsche Post AG (DP), and the latter's financial health; DP currently has an 81% shareholding in BDEL. Though the legal linkages are limited, there are strong operational and strategic linkages. BDEL has a strong brand name in India and an established network of cargo terminals and retail counters across the country. While the worldwide economic downturn has severely impacted the courier business globally in respect of revenue and margin declines, BDEL's cash and debt position remains comfortable for the rating category.

In FY08, though revenue growth was reasonable, the EBITDA/ton dropped significantly due to lower realisations related to changes in ton mix (from higher margin courier documents to lower margin cargo transport). Fitch expects this trend to continue in FY09, and for BDEL to face further revenue declines. The company has announced an expansion plan spread over the next five-to-seven years to improve its operations, primarily in air express. BDEL also has plans to develop new cargo terminals and improvements to other ground services. It invested about INR650m in a Bangalore cargo terminal that started operations in FY08 and is planning to develop similar facilities in other parts of India.

Fitch notes that a more-than-anticipated decline in revenues, which would materially impact BDEL's leverage, could act as a negative rating factor. A material increase in net adjusted debt/operating EBITDAR beyond 3.5x on a sustained basis, and any material weakening of DP's credit profile, could also act as a negative rating trigger.

In FY08 ended December 2008, revenues increased by 20% to INR9,766.6m at the consolidated level, while EBITDA margins declined to 12.9% from 16% in FY07 due to higher operating costs. Total adjusted net debt/operating EBITDAR increased to 2.0x in FY08 from 1.4x in FY07, due to increased capex at BDA related to the Bangalore cargo terminal. As of December 2008, BDEL had working capital limits of INR300m completely unused. In addition, BDEL also had investments of about INR525m as of December 2008, providing an additional liquidity cushion.

As per unaudited Q109 results to end-March 2009, revenues were down by 13% y-o-y to INR2090m, while EBITDA margins had declined to 10% (Q108: 20%). The margins were affected by increased freight, handling and servicing costs and lower scale of operations.

Note to editors: Fitch's National ratings provide a relative measure of creditworthiness for rated entities in countries with relatively low international sovereign ratings and where there is demand for such ratings. The best risk within a country is rated 'AAA' and other credits are rated only relative to this risk. National ratings are designed for use mainly by local investors in local markets and are signified by the addition of an identifier for the country concerned, such as 'AAA(ind)' for National ratings in India. Specific letter grades are not therefore internationally comparable.

Fitch's rating definitions and the terms of use of such ratings are available on the agency's public site, Published ratings, criteria and methodologies are available from this site, at all times. Fitch's code of conduct, confidentiality, conflicts of interest, affiliate firewall, compliance and other relevant policies and procedures are also available from the 'Code of Conduct' section of this site

Fitch Ratings currently maintains coverage of approximately 6,000 financial institutions, including over 3,200 banks and 2,200 insurance companies. Finance & leasing companies, broker-dealers, asset managers, managed funds, and covered bonds make up the remainder of Fitch Ratings’ financial institution coverage universe.

Fitch India has Five rating offices located at Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore. Fitch is recognised by Reserve Bank of India, Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and National Housing Bank.

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First Published: Tue, July 28 2009. 18:52 IST