Rating agency Standard and Poor's (S&P) has lowered Latin
American wireless operator
NII Holdings Inc.'s
) credit rating further to junk status but has retained a stable
outlook. Deterioration in the credit measures mainly compelled
the rate cut.
S&P downgraded NII Holdings' corporate credit rating by one
notch to B- from the previous B rating status. The company's debt
now falls six tiers below the investment grade and is the second
of its kind in the last six months after its rating was lowered
in August following weak second-quarter 2012 results.
According to the rating firm, delay in deployment of 3G network
in Brazil puts the telecom carrier in a disadvantageous position
as opposed to its peers and the company will continue to face
subscriber loss until it rolls out 3G services in the second half
of 2013. The wireless operator faces pricing and foreign exchange
pressures in the Latin American markets, which have lowered its
ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) thereby impacting its top line
and bottom line.
Apart from the regulatory and economic risks, the company is also
exposed to technological risk because it is in the process of
) integrated digital enhanced technology (IDEN), which is a less
popular wireless network and has fewer subscribers.
S&P expects the company's EBITDA to decline 20% in 2013 from
about $900 million in the previous year. The company may issue
new debts in 2013 to fund its free operating cash flow losses,
which in turn may increase its leveraged position.
NII Holdings lags far behind rival
America Movil S.A.B. de C.V.
), which has rolled out 3G services in several Brazilian cities
), which commands a major share of the Brazilian 3G market. The
company's financial condition is expected to remain weak in 2013
as the company continues to spend on 3G roll out in Brazil. We
believe the company could face further downgrades if it fails to
quickly deploy its 3G network in Brazil.
Currently, NII Holdings carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).
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