Example 4.1: Environmental and Governance Screening
The company in question was previously known as one of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers globally. However, a 2018 acquisition of a chemical and agricultural producer significantly increased the regulatory and litigation risk for the legacy credit. As a result, the company now faces enhanced product safety and reputational concerns that could result in a multi-billion dollar payout as well as the inability to sell a major product in its existing portfolio. While the validity of these concerns is still being debated scientifically, recent developments in the legal cases have contributed to significant volatility in the company’s bond spreads. A review by the Loomis Sayles analyst of the litigation deemed the potential liability manageable, given the company’s strong cash flow and improving balance sheet. Nevertheless, these concerns were highlighted as a major risk factor in the analyst’s recommendation.
Example 4.2: Social and Governance Screening
A tobacco company has been focused on researching, refining, and marketing alternatives to combustible cigarettes that are believed to be less harmful to consumers’ health. While its competitors have been discussing similar types of investments in reduced risk products with a focus on switching existing smokers, this company has been the most proactive in this area. It has been able to grow its smoke-free heated tobacco portfolio to over 12% of sales and spent 92% of its R&D budget on smoke-free products. The product has gained acceptance in certain parts of Asia and Europe and has recently become available in the US market. Positively, it is not available in flavors that would appeal to youth.
Our analyst also notes that its product development efforts and engagement with investors set it apart from its peers. The Loomis Sayles analyst met with the Chief Sustainability Officer which led to a clearer understanding of the company’s goals, focus, and ambition to continue to grow its heated tobacco portfolio even if it cannibalizes its highly profitable combustible cigarette brands. This company’s efforts to evolve and transform itself support our fundamental credit view.