Published: Monday May 13, 2013 MYT 12:38:00 PM

RAM Ratings ups Menara ABS’s Sukuk outlook to stable

KUALA LUMPUR: RAM Rating Services Bhd has reaffirmed the ratings of Menara ABS Bhd's Sukuk and revises the outlook on Tranche A from negative to stable.

The ratings agency said on Monday it had reaffirmed the long-term ratings of its Tranche A1, Tranche A2, Tranche A3, Tranche A4 (Tranche A Sukuk) and Tranche B Sukuk Ijarah at AAA, AA2, A1, A2 and AAA, respectively.

“At the same time, the negative outlook on the ratings of the Tranche A Sukuk has been reverted to stable while the stable rating outlook on the Tranche B Sukuk has been maintained,” it said.

To recap, Menara ABS is a trust-owned, special-purpose vehicle which was set up for the sale-and-leaseback transaction involving four properties - Menara TM, Menara Celcom, TM Taman Desa and TM Cyberjaya - previously owned by Telekom Malaysia Bhd.

RAM Rating said profit payments on the Tranche A Sukuk are covered by lease payments from TM while the principal redemption will be met via proceeds from either refinancing, repurchase by TM or disposal of the properties in the open market.

“The principal redemption and profit payments on the Tranche B Sukuk are met by the lease payments from TM, whose credit profile therefore underpins this tranche's rating and outlook,” it said.

The rating agency said the reaffirmation of the Tranche A Sukuk's ratings was based on the properties' adjusted valuation of RM656.21mil, the resultant cumulative loan-to-value ratios and stressed debt service coverage levels that remain in line with their respective ratings.

The ratings include the minimal counterparty risk given TM's role as the master lessee in the 15-year master Ijarah agreement with Menara ABS.

“We note that TM promptly settled its RM65.39mil of lease payment obligations in December 2012,” it said.

RAM Ratings also said the negative outlook was assigned to the Tranche A Sukuk in May 2012, following its concerns over the potential weakening in the Properties' cashflow-generating ability due to the longer-than-expected time taken to fill up vacant space at Menara TM and the significant non-renewal risk of Celcom Axiata Bhd's (Axiata) lease at Menara Celcom.

While Axiata has renewed its leases up to September 2015, Menara Celcom remains at risk as a single-tenanted building.

“We note, however, that the property manager has expended more effort into improving the occupancy level of Menara TM and identified contingency plans for potential vacancy in Menara Celcom in the event that Axiata terminates its leases in 2015.

“In this respect, RAM has revised the outlook on the Tranche A Sukuk's ratings, from negative to stable, premised on our expectations that the Properties' performance will eventually converge to a more sustainable level, in line with our assumption for the medium term,” it said. RAM Ratings said based on the revaluation of the properties in October 2012, their total market valuation has increased by 7.79% to RM1.116bil (previously RM1.035bil).

RAM had adopted the “discounted cashflow” method, taking into account the net property income achieved in 2012 to arrive at the revised adjusted valuation of RM36.84mil for TM Convention Centre (TMCC) (previously: RM19.47mil), as a result of the reconfiguration of the building into meeting rooms, small offices and retail space.

“All things considered, RAM has maintained the properties' adjusted valuation despite the revised valuation for TMCC,” it said.

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