September 20, 2016 / 3:06 PM / 3 years ago

Fitch Rates Brinker's Gtd. Sr. Notes 'BBB-/RR2'; Outlook Stable

(The following statement was released by the rating agency) CHICAGO, September 20 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has assigned a 'BBB-/RR2' rating to Brinker International, Inc.'s (Brinker; NYSE: EAT) new $350 million guaranteed senior unsecured notes due 2024. Fitch has also upgraded Brinker's amended and extended upsized credit facility to 'BBB-/RR2' from 'BB+/RR4'. The ratings on the existing $550 million non-guaranteed unsecured notes were affirmed at 'BB+/RR4'. The Rating Outlook is Stable. A full list of rating actions follows at the end of this release. The upgrade to the credit facility follows the Sept. 13, 2016 amendment which added a guarantee from its Brinker Texas and Brinker Florida operating subsidiaries. Brinker also increased the size of the revolver to $1 billion versus $750 million, extended the maturity date on $890 million of the total to Sept. 12, 2021, and raised the maximum adjusted leverage covenant, which is based on 6x rent, to 4.25x from 3.5x. The remaining $110 million (the non-extended maturity) portion of the credit facility will mature on March 12, 2020. Brinker also The new unsecured notes are guaranteed by the same subsidiaries as the amended and extended credit facility. Net proceeds from the issuance will be used to repurchase up to $300 million of the common stock and repay up to $50 million of outstanding indebtedness under the company's revolving credit facility. The assignment of the RRs reflects Fitch's 'Recovery Ratings and Notching Criteria for Non-Financial Corporates issuers' criteria dated April 5, 2016, which allows for the assignment of Recovery Ratings (RRs) for issuers with IDRs in the 'BB' category. The 'RR2' Recovery Rating on Brinker's guaranteed unsecured debt and credit facility reflects the seniority of the debt given the guarantees put in place. The 'RR4' on Brinker's non-guaranteed unsecured debt reflects Fitch's view that recovery on this debt would be average. KEY RATING DRIVERS Brinker's ratings continue to reflect Chili's Bar & Grill's (Chili's) top 3 market position in U.S. casual dining and healthy operating cash flow. Brinker has had a strong track record of positive comp growth, improved profitability, and strong free cash flow (FCF) through fiscal 2015. Chili's represented 97% of Brinker's 1,660 restaurants at June 29, 2016; therefore, the strength of the brand is an important indicator of Brinker's credit profile. Brinker strives to keep the brand competitive and relevant in order to maintain share. However, system-wide comps have been negative for four straight quarters, declining 2.2% in the latest quarter and 1.9% for the fiscal year ended June 29, 2016. Fitch views an outsized exposure to oil-producing states, which are experiencing economic weakness, and the transition from direct marketing to the My Chili's Rewards loyalty program as key contributors. Fitch believes Brinker has effectively isolated challenges at Chili's. In order to reignite comp growth, Brinker is revamping its loyalty program, increasing marketing spend, enhancing value offerings, and adding more culinary innovation. While gradual improvement is anticipated, comps could remain negative in fiscal 2017 given continued economic weakness in oil-producing states, the highly competitive restaurant environment, and recent declines in restaurant traffic. Pro forma total adjusted debt/EBITDAR is 3.8x compared to 3.3x for the fiscal year ended June 29, 2016. Fitch projects total adjusted debt/EBITDAR will approximate 4.0x in fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018. KEY ASSUMPTIONS Fitch's key assumptions within the rating case for Brinker include: --Comps decline 1% in fiscal 2017, before returning to positive low single digits; --Operating margin declines to below 10% in fiscal 2017 and 2018, from 10.7% in fiscal 2016; --FCF approximates $150 million in fiscal 2017, versus $208 million in fiscal 2016, reflecting EBITDA declining from $506 million to around $460 million; --Total adjusted debt-to-operating EBITDAR rising to around 4x in fiscal 2017. RATING SENSITIVITIES Future developments that may, individually or collectively, lead to a positive rating action include: --Consistently positive comps at Chili's with traffic trends at least in line with the industry; --A commitment to maintain total adjusted debt/EBITDAR in the 3.0x - 3.5x range. This is not anticipated in the near term given the change in financial policy. Future developments that may, individually or collectively, lead to a negative rating action include: --A lack of improvement in comps and higher than expected margin contraction; --Capital allocation policies that remain biased towards shareholders, despite weak operating performance and increased leverage; --Total adjusted debt/EBITDAR sustained above 4.0x. LIQUIDITY At June 29, 2016, Brinker had $31 million of cash and $220 million of revolver availability. Brinker's nearest upcoming maturity is the $250 million 2.6% notes due 2018, which Fitch anticipates will be refinanced. Fitch projects Brinker will generate roughly $150 million in fiscal 2017, versus $208 million in fiscal 2016. Capex is expected to approximate $110 million - $120 million in fiscal 2017, versus $113 million in fiscal 2016. Dividends are projected to track Brinker's 40% of earnings payout target. Most of the company's FCF is expected to be used for share repurchases. FULL LIST OF RATING ACTIONS Fitch has taken the following rating actions: --Long-term IDR affirmed at 'BB+'; --Amended and extended guaranteed senior unsecured bank credit upgraded to 'BBB-/RR2' from 'BB+/RR4'; --Guaranteed senior unsecured notes assigned 'BBB-/RR2' ratings; --Unguaranteed senior unsecured notes affirmed at 'BB+/RR4'. The Rating Outlook is Stable. Contact: Primary Analyst Carla Norfleet Taylor, CFA Senior Director +1-312-368-3195 Fitch Ratings, Inc. 70 W. Madison St. Chicago, IL 60602 Secondary Analyst Bill Densmore Senior Director +1-312-368-3125 Committee Chairperson Monica Aggarwal, CFA Managing Director +1-212-908-0282 Media Relations: Alyssa Castelli, New York, Tel: +1 (212) 908 0540, Email: Date of Relevant Rating Committee: Aug. 11, 2016 Summary of Financial Statement Adjustments - Financial statement adjustments that depart materially from those contained in the published financial statements of the relevant rated entity or obligor are disclosed below: --Historical and projected EBITDA is adjusted to add back non-cash stock based compensation expense as reported in financials. --Fitch views operating leases as debt-like obligations so capitalizes gross rent expense using a multiple of 8x. Additional information is available on Applicable Criteria Corporate Rating Methodology - Including Short-Term Ratings and Parent and Subsidiary Linkage (pub. 17 Aug 2015) here Recovery Ratings and Notching Criteria for Non-Financial Corporate Issuers (pub. 05 Apr 2016) here Additional Disclosures Dodd-Frank Rating Information Disclosure Form here _id=1011921 Solicitation Status here Endorsement Policy here ail=31 ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: here IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEBSITE 'WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM'. 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 MAY HAVE PROVIDED ANOTHER PERMISSIBLE SERVICE TO THE RATED ENTITY OR ITS RELATED THIRD PARTIES. DETAILS OF THIS SERVICE FOR RATINGS FOR WHICH THE LEAD ANALYST IS BASED IN AN EU-REGISTERED ENTITY CAN BE FOUND ON THE ENTITY SUMMARY PAGE FOR THIS ISSUER ON THE FITCH WEBSITE.

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