Rating agency could downgrade broker’s credit rating if cost savings and profits are lower than expected

The departure of Towergate chief executive Mark Hodges has cast further doubt on the success of broker’s strategic reorganisation, Fitch said.

The rating agency also said it may downgrade Towergate’s issuer default rating of B if the benefits from the broker’s cost savings programme are lower than expected, if there is a lower contribution from acquisitions or if the broker suffers further pressure on its underlying profits.

Fitch has Towergate’s B rating on negative outlook, which means it is at risk of a downgrade.

The agency said: “Fitch continues to believe that the series of strategic measures taken by Towergate to rationalise and enhance its processes has merit and expects some cost-saving opportunities to materialise.

“However, there are inherent execution risks in implementing such a large transformation plan, which have been heightened by the recent resignation of the chief executive.”

It added: “The speed of delivery of the transformation plan will be influenced by the time taken to appoint a new chief executive, which could slow the implementation of the planned strategy.

“It is also possible that a new chief executive may look to take the business in a different strategic direction that may affect the group’s underlying credit metrics.”

Fitch said it would continue to monitor how operational efficiencies are extracted, the extent to which profitability improves and how much Towergate’s relative debt level reduces in the full 2015 year.

Fitch said it would downgrade Towergate’s rating if the broker fails to reduce its debt to below 6.75 times funds from operations (FFO), if it fails to improve its FFO fixed charge cover to above 1.5 times, and if it fails to generate positive free cash flow with a free cash flow margin close to 5% in the full 2015 year.