Fitch downgrades Minera Frisco on debt concerns

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Fitch lowered its ratings for Minera Frisco as the company struggles to get a handle on debt.

The agency revised down its ratings for the Mexican miner to 'A-(mex)' from 'A+(mex)', long-term, and to 'F2(mex)' from 'F1(mex)', short-term.

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Frisco's short and long-term notes were also downgraded one notch. All ratings were given a negative outlook.

DEBT REDUCTION

Frisco's net leverage ratio increased to 5.2x in the 12 months ending June 2016 from 5.1x in 2015, and Fitch now expects that ratio to end 2016 at 4.6x rather than 4.0x previously forecast.

Maturity of short and medium-term debts will also add to pressure on liquidity, the agency said. Total debt stood at around 25bn pesos (US$1.32bn) at end-June.

"Minera Frisco is facing important challenges, including from the global price environment, mining operations and the reserves and resources of its mining operations," Fitch said.

Short and medium-term debts which mature in the coming 15 months total about US$240mn, it added.

The negative outlook stems from the challenges the company faces in its strategy to stabilize cash flow generation and debt.

The company has been highly leveraged since its 2012 acquisition of AuRico Gold México and the Ocampo mine, while deleveraging has been delayed by falling metals prices and disruptions to operations, Fitch said.

POSITIVES

Among the positives taken into account in its ratings, Fitch highlighted support from controlling shareholders, which brings greater financial flexibility. Frisco is controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

The company is continuing to measure reserves and resources, while its nine Mexican operations offer diversified income from production of gold, silver, copper, zinc and lead.

Frisco was Mexico's third biggest gold miner and sixth for silver in Q2. The company recorded a US$91.1mn net loss in the quarter.

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