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Debt Policy at Ust Inc Questions
Debt Policy at UST Inc.

Executive Summary

In the 1990’s, UST was a dominant producer of moist smokeless tobacco, controlling 77% of the market. Smokeless tobacco products consist of snuff (dry and moist) and chewing tobacco (loose leaf, plug and twist/roll) categories. UST was a market leader of the snuff product category, innovating with new product forms and flavors over the years. UST has also been a profitable company, boosting its shareholders’ earnings by undertaking measures such as increasing the cost of its products steadily with time. UST also benefited from the steady increase in market demand for smokeless tobacco given the rising restrictions on cigarette second hand smoke. UST was still criticized at the time for its tardiness with new product introductions and losing its market share to new and smaller competitors. In 1997, instead of cutting product prices to compete, UST introduced new line of lower priced products such as Copenhagen Long Cut and Rooster. UST also renewed its focus on the marketing campaigns, launching promotions and increasing couponing. For years, tobacco industry had been embattled with health related lawsuits. Majority of these litigations were for cigarette companies in comparison to smokeless tobacco industry. Still, UST had seven pending health related lawsuits. UST has historically been one of the most profitable companies in corporate America. Even though S&P rated the debt of many tobacco companies as investment grade, its long term outlook of the tobacco industry was unclear given the rising restrictions on tobacco products and health awareness among consumers. Despite the questionable outlook of tobacco industry, in December 1998 UST’s board of directors decided for active capital structure change and approved the decision to borrow up to $1 billion to accelerate the company’s stock repurchase program.

What are the primary business risks associated with UST Inc.? Evaluate from the viewpoint of a credit analyst or potential bond holder (1 point). Hint: you may compile a list of factors and comment on them.? UST has historically been one of the most profitable companies in corporate America and a market leader in smokeless tobacco industry; however there are a few associated business risks with UST as listed below: • The demand for smokeless tobacco products was minimal in international markets and product expansion outside USA for greater market segment was not much of an option for UST. • UST had been slow to diversify its product line across various price points, consequently allowing smaller competitors to gain traction for the lower priced smokeless tobacco product categories. Companies like Swedish Match, Conwood and Swisher were reporting rising revenues with snuff and chewing tobacco products. • Tobacco industries (smoke or smokeless tobacco products) were involved in numerous health related lawsuits and litigations. With FDA regulations, there were increasing restrictions on tobacco use. Consumers were also getting health conscious and understanding the carcinogen effects of tobacco with increasing anti-tobacco campaigns. UST had seven pending health related lawsuits at the end of 1998. Lawmakers were expected to continue to push for new laws to combat youth tobacco use, restrict tobacco advertising and empower FDA to regulate nicotine as a drug. These developments made the distant future of tobacco industry and UST unclear.
2. According to Exhibit 3 of the case, the current P/E ratio is 13.8 (i.e., P0/E0 = 13.8). Using the 20-year T-bond rate of 5.45% from Exhibit 8 of the case, assuming the stock market premium is 7%, and UST’s equity beta is 0.65, and UST will maintain a dividend payout ratio equal to the 5-year average dividend payout ratio from 1994 until 1998, what is the implied earnings constant growth rate, g (2 points)?
5-year average dividend payout ratio
1994 = 58%
1995 = 59%
1996 = 60%
1997 = 67%
1998 = 64%
Dividend payout ratio = 61.6%

CAPM i = Rf + β(RM – Rf) β = .65 Rf = 5.45% 20-year T-bond rate RM = 7% i = 5.45% + .65(7% – 5.45%) i = 6.46%

Constant Dividend Growth Model
P0/E0 = (1+g)*d/(i-g) P0/E0 = current price to earnings ratio = 13.8 d = dividend payout = 61.6% i = required rate of return on the stock = 6.46% g = constant growth rate
P0/E0 = (1+g)*d/(i-g)
13.8 = (1+g)*.616/(.0646-g)
22.4026 = (1+g)/ (.0646-g)
23.4026g = .447208 g = .019109 = 1.91%
3. Assume a 38% tax rate, and net sales will grow at 5% from 1998 level, and the ratio of EBIT to Net sales in 1999 will be equal to the 5-year average EBIT/Net sales ratio from 1994 to 1998 period, prepare a pro-forma income statement as the following table. Will UST will be able to make interest payments (4 points)?
Income Statement Projections (in millions, except per-share data and ratios)
| |Actual |Pro-forma |Pro-forma |Pro-forma |Pro-forma |
| |1998 |1999 |1999 |1999 |1999 |
|Net sales | | | | | |
|EBIT | | | | | |
|Interest | | | | | |
|Pre-tax earnings | | | | | |
|Taxes | | | | | |
|Net Income | | | | | |
|Net debt |0.0 |0.0 |$1000.0 |$1000.0 |$1000.0 |
|Interest rate |NA |NA |7.05% |7.82% |8.72% |
|Interest coverage |NA |NA | | | |

4. Should UST Inc. undertake the $1 billion recapitalization? Assuming the entire recapitalization is implemented immediately on 01/01/1999. Fill out the following form and show your solution process and explain whenever necessary, assuming the $1 billion in new debt is constant and perpetual (2 points). Hint: assumes that recapitalization plan was not anticipated by the capital markets, so the stock price under recapitalization plan should be equal to the original market price plus the PV tax shields per share, and assume shares are repurchased at the stock price reflecting the recapitalization.
Valuation Impact of recapitalization (in millions, except per-share data and ratios)
| |Status Quo (12/31/1998) |$1 billion Recap Plan |
|PV Tax Shields |0 | |
|Market Value of UST | | |
|Net Debt |0 |$1,000.0 |
|Stock price |$34.88 | |
|Shares repurchased |NA | |
|Shares outstanding | | |
|Market value of Equity |$6470.8 | |
|Debt/Equity ratio | | |

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