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FITCH UPGRADES THAILAND'S SIAM CEMENT TO 'A(tha)'

Business Press Releases วันพฤหัสบดีที่ ๒๖ กุมภาพันธ์ พ.ศ. ๒๕๔๗ ๑๑:๕๑ น.
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Bangkok--Feb 26--Fitch Ratings (Thailand)

Fitch Ratings (Thailand) Limited has today upgraded the Long term and Short term national ratings of the Siam Cement Public Company Limited's ("SCC") to 'A (tha)' from 'A-(tha)' (A minus(tha)) and to 'F1(tha)' from 'F2(tha)', respectively. The Rating Outlook is Stable. The new ratings also apply to its other outstanding debentures and are assigned to SCC's new unsecured unsubordinated debentures No.1/2004 amount up to THB10 billion due 2008. The newly issued debentures will be used to fund part of SCC's THB14bn debentures maturing in April 2004.

The upgrade of the ratings is based on SCC's strengthened financial position, recovery in its core earnings as well as projected strong future operating performance. With the priority given to debt reduction, core earnings improvement and non-core assets divestments, SCC has been able to report a significant improvement in its financial position with positive net free cash flow over the past three years. SCC's consolidated net debt to EBITDA ratio strengthened to 3.5x at end-2003 from 4.6x at end-2002. The company's target of net debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.0x by end-2004 is likely to be achieved ahead of schedule, while it aims to lower its net debt to EBITDA ratio to 2.0x by end-2005.

As some of its core businesses are operating at full capacity, SCC may make further investments in paper and packaging, petrochemicals and some of building products. At present, the group's annual capex is projected at THB10-12bn during 2004-2005. With improved leverage level and projected strong operating cash flow, SCC's financial flexibility has improved materially, which should enable it to increase capex and absorb volatility in the performance of its core businesses.

SCC reported strong earnings in 2003, mainly on the back of robust performance of its petrochemicals, cement and building products businesses. SCC's earnings were also fueled by higher contributions of equity income from its associates. A sharp reduction in financing costs also contributed to SCC's solid bottom line in 2003. SCC reported consolidated net income of THB20.0bn in 2003, up 37% from 2002. The recovery of the property and construction sector and the positive domestic economic growth outlook (the main earnings driver of cement and building products divisions), coupled with the upward trend in petrochemicals products, should continue to underpin SCC's strong operating performance during 2004 and 2005.

At end-2003, SCC's consolidated debt was THB117.2bn, consisting of 39% short-term and 61% long-term. The domestic bond market remains one of its important funding sources. Given the existing low interest rate environment, SCC is likely to achieve lower funding costs from its refinancing activities. While most of its debt is denominated in Thai baht, SCC may utilise foreign currency borrowings with a full hedging policy.

CONTACT:
Orawan Karoonkornsakul, CFA, Director, Corporates, Bangkok, Tel: +662 655 4766
Lertchai Kochareonrattanakul, Associate Director, Corporates +662 655 4760
Wasant Polcharoen, Analyst, Corportes   +662 655 4763
Vincent Milton, Managing Director   +662 655 4759   End.
-RK-

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