May MarketMonitor


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In this issue…
…we feature the following markets:
USA – with a spotlight on the chemicals and metals sectors
Belgium – with a spotlight on the construction and automotive/transport sectors
The Netherlands
Czech Republic
Atradius Collections sees a marked increase in its caseload

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May MarketMonitor

  1. 1. marketmonitor adapting to the challenging economic environment May 2009 The immediate outlook for key markets and sectors Every month, Atradius brings you an up to the minute snapshot report on a range of export markets and key trade sectors. Our underwriters have a specialist view of the world economy – and the industries that make that economy tick - that you won’t find in the general press coverage of events, so we hope that you will find our summary reviews a useful addition to your Atradius credit insurance. Even more importantly, our underwriters use their expertise and experience to look to the future. In each edition of Atradius Market monitor you’ll find our outlook for a number of key market economies. In this issue… …we feature the following markets: USA – with a spotlight on the chemicals and metals sectors Belgium – with a spotlight on the construction and automotive/transport sectors The Netherlands Finland Czech Republic Slovakia Romania Atradius Collections sees a marked increase in its caseload 1
  2. 2. Expected default in Western Europe and USA One of the most important factors that any business needs to know is the trend of insolvencies in their markets. The following Expected Default Frequency (EDF) chart is based on listed companies in the markets referred to, and the likelihood of default across all sectors within the next year. In this context, default is defined as a failure to make a scheduled payment, or the initiation of bankruptcy proceedings. Probability of default is calculated from three factors: market value of a company’s assets, its volatility and its current capital structure. As a guide, the probability of one firm in a hundred defaulting on payment is shown as 1%. Source: Atradius Economic Research and KMV Credit Monitor The deteriorating global economic environment translates into an increase in insolvencies. As confirmed by the EDF indicators, insolvencies are predicted to increase steeply across all major economies in 2009. The heightened default expectation has been evident since mid-2007 (see chart above). In March 2009, the median EDF of some major Western economies rose again compared to the previous month, with a sharp increase recorded for the Netherlands. The EDFs for the US and France have decreased somewhat, but there is no reason for complacency, as they still remain very high compared with the figures of January 2009. On the following pages, we assess the impact of expected default in key markets 2
  3. 3. USA The current business environment Since December 2007 the US has been in recession. The economy is experiencing rising unemployment, decreasing consumer spending and depressed consumer confidence, escalating home foreclosures and reduced manufacturing activity. In Q4 of 2008, US GDP growth contracted by 6.3%, consumer spending fell by 4.3%, and exports decreased by 23.6% - the biggest drop since 1971. For Q1 of 2009, GDP is expected to be equally bad, as unemployment continues to increase (at 8.5% in March 2009) and the manufacturing sector remains weak (with orders for durable goods declining by 0.8% in March 2009). In the first week of May 2009, corporate borrowing costs fell to the lowest level since October 2008 amid signs that government efforts to repair broken credit markets are working. Interbank lending spreads fell to the lowest since Lehman Brothers’ collapse. However, banks remain reluctant to lend. There is still much uncertainty as to the capital reserves, quality of asset bases, market value of assets held by lenders and over their credit quality. The credit markets are supporting only the most viable companies at this time. The outlook for the US Compared to 2007, business failures were up 49% to 30,000 in 2008. Corporate insolvencies have risen for 10 consecutive quarters, with further increases expected in 2009. Business failures are projected to be 62,000 this year. The short-term economic prospects for the US remain poor, with the possibility of a slight improvement in the latter part of 2009. The US automotive sector is currently in turmoil. Chrysler has filed for Chapter 11 as debtors, stakeholders and bondholders failed to reach an out-of-court settlement. GM continues to struggle despite massive government funding. The company now has until June 1, 2009 to present a viable business plan for survival to the administration: otherwise a Chapter 11 filing may occur. Ford is healthy from a short-term liquidity standpoint. However, total vehicle build in the US is projected to be in the range of 9.2 to 9.7 million cars this year, down significantly from the 16-17 million units build in the recent past. This has also caused considerable deterioration in the whole automotive supplier sector. Other troubled sectors are: Metals, as the sector feeds into auto and capital goods, both of which are stagnant. Chemicals, as demand, destocking, high costs and leveraged financial positions have negatively impacted margins, profits and cash flows. Commercial and residential construction, as lending has dried up and there is an over-inventory of houses and office space. Paper and packaging, as demand is down due to the economic slowdown and high costs. Retailers continue to be hurt by reduced consumer spending and high levels of unemployment. 3
  4. 4. Spotlight on industries in the US Chemicals How has the global economic downturn impacted the chemicals industry? The global downturn has caused a rapid decline in demand for commodity and speciality chemicals, significantly lowering the credit profile of the sector. Declining demand for the purchase of paints, coatings, performance plastics, adhesives, glass, etc in the automotive and construction sectors in particular has caused significant declines in volume demand and pricing. From November 2008 until February 2009, as the credit markets froze and end-users destocked to work through inventory, orders had all but ceased. Going into this decline, cash and liquidity within the sector were not strong. High energy and input costs in early 2008 drained cash and hurt margins for many in the sector. As a capital intensive sector, debt is high and has increased as a result of many chemicals companies taking on additional debt to acquire weaker companies. What is the current trend in payment delays, payments defaults and insolvencies and why? There has been a significant increase in slow payments, defaults, selective default and insolvencies in the chemicals sector as both the effects of destocking and poor access to outside capital have left many buyers with strained liquidity: decreased demand has also eroded their cash flow and working capital. So far in 2009 several major chemicals companies have become insolvent and there is a significant decline in the credit profile of most companies in this sector. This trend is expected to continue in the second half of 2009, albeit at a slower pace. What should companies selling products into the chemicals sector pay particular attention to? Companies need to watch the pricing and volume declines of their buyers and how this has rippled through the financial statements and affected liquidity. Sales volume and price declines are causing tighter margins, operating losses, weak or negative interest coverage and cash burn. The control of costs related to energy and raw material associated with the manufacturing process is vital as top line declines. The ability to pass through cost increases, cut costs, create margin and generate cash is very important in predicting the buyer’s ability to pay, as lending is still constrained to many companies who need external sources of funds. Close attention should also be paid to the buyer’s end-markets since much of the US manufacturing sector remains in decline. What is Atradius’ short term (6 month outlook) for the chemicals sector? Negative: We anticipate continued weak demand in the coming months. Any increases in energy cost will further impair cash and margins. The downsizing of companies, industry consolidation and bankruptcies have all taken capacity out of the sector. We expect that continued cost containment and cash hoarding will continue throughout 2009. 4
  5. 5. Spotlight on industries in the US Metals How has the global economic downturn impacted the metals industry? The economic downturn has negatively impacted the US metal industry in terms of both decreased volume and pricing. The sector supplies products primarily into the automotive (30% of total steel sold in the US), construction, infrastructure, machinery, aerospace and energy industries, all of which are in decline. As end- market demand has dropped, orders for metals have dried up, with customers destocking inventory and only ordering for projects that are in process. ‘Just in time’ inventory is now being used across the spectrum, hurting demand as auto build and project growth have both declined significantly. Aluminium producers have already seen steep declines in their credit profile, and steel producers are continuing to have dramatic declines in credit metrics as overcapacity, high inventory and oversupply encounter poor end-market demand. Balance sheets are weak, major producers and distributors maintain high debt loads, and access to the capital markets is uncertain for weaker credits. What is the current trend in payment delays, payments defaults and insolvencies and why? There has been an increase in slow payments as decreased demand erodes cash flow and working capital. At the beginning of this decline, cash and liquidity for the sector was strong. But now the credit profile of even the strongest buyers in the sector has declined due to decreased volumes and pricing. We anticipate this trend will continue throughout the rest of 2009, which could result in increased payment defaults and insolvencies. What should companies selling products into the US metals industry pay particular attention to? Watch upcoming debt maturities, cash generation from operations, free cash flow, the cash conversion cycle (days sales outstanding (DSO), inventory turns) and headroom on financial covenants, and any other incident that may cause an immediate call on cash, or loss of liquidity. The ability to cut costs - such as energy, labour, type of smelting - associated with the manufacturing process is vital as top line declines. Pay strict attention to whom the buyer is selling to (sector strength and concentration risk as well as bankruptcy risk of the large auto manufactures and OEMs affiliated). What is Atradius’ short term (6 month outlook) for the metals sector? Negative: We anticipate continued weak demand in 2009 with government spending helping to stabilize the sector in 2010. We are seeing rightsizing of companies and consolidation, as cost containment and cash hoarding continues through 2009. We anticipate continued sector weakness and more insolvencies until enough capacity is taken out to match the slowing demand. 5
  6. 6. Belgium The current business environment The Belgian business environment has been deteriorating since the second half of 2008 and, in the last quarter, the downturn has accelerated with a GDP-contraction of 1.7%. In Q1 of 2009 Belgium technically entered into recession with a negative growth rate of 1.6%. Overall in 2009, GDP is forecast to contract by 3.8%. Exports, as a main contributor to GDP, have been severely affected by the economic deterioration of Belgium’s main trading partners. In 2008 exports decreased by 7% year-on-year. Moreover, as the Belgian government is now taking measures to support investment and consumption, Belgium’s fiscal deficit will reach 3.6% this year. The credit crisis has put the banking system under pressure, with direct impact on the issue or renewal of credits for both corporates and consumers, which in turn has negatively affected investments. Corporate investment showed a positive development in 2008 (+2.1%) but is expected to be negative (-4%) in 2009. Private consumption is also forecast to decrease. Public investments should show the opposite trend (+3.5% compared to -3.7% in 2008), thanks to the government’s stimulus package. The dramatic deterioration has had an immediate impact on companies’ payment behaviour. In Q2 of 2008, 68.36% of the invoices issued by Belgian companies were paid on time, but in Q1 of 2009 this fell to 65.65%. In Q4 of 2008 8.89% of these invoices were paid more than 90 days after due date. Q1 of 2009 shows an increase of about 9% compared to the previous quarter to 9.69%. In contrast, the Belgian state, which has always been a rather late payer (in Q4 of 2008 about 23% of invoices were paid more than 90 days after due date) is improving its performance in order to support the economy: “only” 7% of the invoices to the state where paid more than 90 days late in Q1 of 2009 (Source: Graydon). The number of insolvencies reached an all time high of 8,512 cases in 2008, an increase of 10.8% over 2007. Between January and April 2009, 3,374 companies became insolvent, a 23.09% increase year-on-year. The sectors mainly affected are construction (+29.09%), transport (+28.8%), restaurants and cafés, and wholesale (+21%) (Source: Graydon). The outlook for Belgium The short-term outlook remains pessimistic. GDP will further contract, with lack of investments and consumption, and pressure on export books. The main indicators are negative and we do not expect an early recovery. With scarce access to credit, investment and consumption will continue to be negatively affected. The number of insolvencies is also expected to increase significantly, as monthly figures have been showing record rises for the last consecutive 6 months. Construction, metals, automotive, transport, services and the retail sector will continue to suffer. 6
  7. 7. Spotlight on industries in Belgium Construction How has the global economic downturn impacted the construction industry? There is a lack of investments, from both public and private quarters. Private investments in particular are suffering from credit restrictions and from the increase in market prices. At the beginning of 2009 construction also suffered from the wintry weather conditions, with several working days lost in January and February. The sector is currently sustained by renovation work, supported by several fiscal package programmes. What is the current trend in payment delays, payments defaults and insolvencies and why? Payment delays remain within an acceptable range (60% of the invoices were paid on time in Q1 of 2009 compared to 62% in Q4 of 2008) but we have noticed deterioration, especially in range of late payments beyond 60 days after due date, where we saw 14% in Q1 of 2009 compared to 10% in Q4 of 2008 (Source: Graydon). The number of insolvencies has increased by 29.09% during the first four months of 2009 compared to the same period of 2008, and, in comparison to other major sectors, this is the most worrying trend. What is Atradius’ short term (6 month outlook) for the construction sector? Construction companies are heavily dependent on the economic environment. Our short term outlook remains negative as we do not expect any recovery before the end of the year. 7
  8. 8. Spotlight on industries in Belgium Automotive/transport How has the global economic downturn impacted the automotive industry? Belgium’s automotive sector is suffering badly from the current economic situation and from the lack of consumption. The economy is bound to be affected by trends in the automotive sector, because of the strong presence in the country of Audi, Ford, General Motors/Opel, Van Hool and DAF. The current difficulties of the main car manufacturers have already hit the whole Belgian automotive sector - especially sub-contractors and suppliers - and will continue to do so. We expect some plants to be shut down, which will have a dramatic impact on the local economy, as happened some years ago, when the Renault Group closed its plants in Belgium. What is the current trend in payment delays, payments defaults and insolvencies and why? The number of insolvencies in the transport sector increased by 28.8% between January and April 2009 compared to the same period in 2008. We expect insolvencies in both the transport and the automotive sectors to increase further in the course of the year. What is Atradius’ short term (6 month outlook) for the automotive sector? Our short term outlook remains negative as we do not expect any recovery in this sector in the coming months. This is reflected in the vehicle registration figures for the first four months of the year. Between January and April 2009 new car registration decreased by 17.3% year-on-year, vans by 19.6%, trucks and vehicles up to 16 tons by 33.3% and trucks with more than 16 tons by 41.1%. 8
  9. 9. The Netherlands The current business environment Earlier this year the contraction of the Dutch economy was predicted at 2% for 2009. This has now been adjusted to 3.5% (and as high as 4.8% by the IMF). As Germany is The Netherlands’ biggest trading partner, the expected contraction of German GDP - of more than 6% - will have a severe impact on Dutch exports: in 2009 the volume of exports will decrease by 12%. Investments will show a decrease of over 10% in the same period. Production has plunged to its lowest level for 25 years with a capacity usage close to 74%, compared to the norm of around 85%. Both consumer and producer confidence are at a very low level. While they have rebounded slightly this month, this was from an all-time low. Recent forecasts predict that private consumption will decrease slightly in 2009 and 2010. Unemployment has increased to 4.4%, but, depending on the continuation of the Partial Unemployment Benefit regulation (deeltijd-WW) after June 30 2009, this rate could double overnight. Currently 750,000 people are employed under this scheme, but about 50% of these will become unemployed if it is not extended, as the economy has not improved. Many financial institutions are now backed by the Dutch government with either equity or guarantees, but, as working capital funding by banks and other parties remains very limited, companies are still focusing on reducing the need for working capital by keeping lower stocks and accumulating cash, while seeking longer terms from their suppliers. As the process of stock reduction began last year we expect that soon those stocks will reach a level that will make it necessary to restock - even at the current lower production level. Demand will determine the level to which the economy will rebound. The outlook for the Netherlands The level of insolvencies is still expected to rise sharply in 2009. Q1 of 2009 saw a year-on-year increase of 85%. The situation for some trade sectors has deteriorated since our last Market Monitor analysis in February. During the first two months of 2009 insolvencies in the transport sector increased by 90% year-on- year. In the same period metals, electronics and machine production sectors suffered a staggering rise in insolvency of 130%. In the construction industry, even major builders and stock-listed companies are coming under increasing pressure. For the whole of 2009 an increase of 100%, close to a total of 10,000 bankruptcies, is predicted, most of whom will be private limited companies. Geographically we see a concentration of insolvencies in the South- eastern part of the country, where many suppliers to the automotive and electronics industries are located. 9
  10. 10. Finland The current business environment Finland is a small, open economy, and therefore hard hit by the global crisis. Some factors may cushion the negative impacts of the worldwide recession on the economy; for instance, the current account surplus, the healthy state of the pension system, and governmental stimuli such as investment in infrastructure and renovation/construction, tax breaks, and increased company financing by the state export credit agency. However, these cannot prevent a negative outcome simply because the economy is heavily dependent on exports. GDP is expected to contract by 6.5% this year. In February, industrial production fell by 33% year-on-year and, for the whole of 2009, is expected to decrease by 15%. All main export sectors - manufacturing of electronics, machinery, and paper - face reductions in volume. The critical issue is the size of order books. In the metal manufacturing industry, the longest order books last only until the first quarter of 2010. Most companies mention the risk of cancellations of 10-20% of their existing orders in their reports. Construction activity has decreased sharply, as practically no new projects are being started. This will lead to intense competition in renovation/construction, which is to some extent subsidised by the government as part of its stimulus package. Finnish banks are generally in a better condition than those of its Nordic neighbours because of low default rates and smaller exposure to the Baltic risks. Nevertheless, their credit policies have tightened, and many companies now face at least restrictions in lending terms or even credit shortages. The banks are not willing at all to finance construction and venture-capital projects. One major bank has announced that it will classify its corporate customers into two segments, and re-negotiate the terms of its credit to customers in one of those segments only. Insolvencies increased by 17% in Q1 of 2009 compared to Q1 of 2008. The biggest increase was seen in the construction industry, where the number of insolvencies rose 25% year-on-year, with a further increase expected. The outlook for Finland The short-term outlook for the Finnish economy is not good. Unemployment is expected to increase to 9% in 2009 and 10% in 2010. For some private households, a severe problem will be the amount of debt related to housing. Government actions to stimulate the domestic economy will not have lasting positive impact as the economy is over-dependent on external demand. The recession will have an impact on all trade sectors. One industry which will be heavily affected is pulp and paper, where there is already massive restructuring because of the high labour and raw material costs. 10
  11. 11. Czech Republic The current business environment After economic growth of 3.2% in 2008, forecasts for 2009 now predict a GDP contraction of 2% to 3%. In March 2009, Czech industrial production fell by 17.5% year-on-year. In the same period the value of new orders on companies’ books fell by 16.7%. In recent years, Czech growth has been driven mainly by export and partly by domestic consumption. But exports have begun to fall rapidly due to the drop in demand from EU countries, which historically account for 80% of Czech exports (including 32% to Germany). In March, export orders decreased by 15.5% year-on-year. Additionally, domestic consumption is falling due to growing unemployment. As a consequence, heavily export-oriented companies in the automotive, machines, chemicals, transport, and textile and furniture sectors are experiencing the biggest problems. Metal/steel is also under extreme pressure this year, due to falling demand, high stock levels from the second and third quarter of 2008, and a big drop in prices (by 30%). In the construction sector the value of planned buildings fell by 27% and new permits for flats by 30% year-on-year in Q1 of 2009. We are observing a tightening of credit conditions by banks. As a result, it is extremely difficult for Czech companies to get new financing and many are now facing a credit shortage and/or stricter credit terms. We have also seen tightening liquidity in factoring companies. Czech companies are exposed to foreign exchange risks (mainly a problem for importers), but for the time being the fluctuation of the Czech koruna against the US-$ and the euro is not as high as we observe in the case of the Polish and Hungarian currencies. The outlook for the Czech Republic This year we expect insolvencies in the Czech Republic to increase by 15%-20% to approximately 1700. The sectors mainly affected will be transport, construction, textiles and steel traders as well as companies linked to the automotive industry. We expect companies that do not react quickly to the changing environment - by reducing fixed costs, re-directing export, reducing stocks and lowering or restructuring indebtedness - to face liquidity problems. But there are also some opportunities in the current environment. EU funds are earmarked for infrastructure improvements, providing good prospects for the construction sector. Additionally, with its lower labour costs, the Czech Republic remains a competitive and attractive destination for Western European businesses looking for outsourcing opportunities. 11
  12. 12. Slovakia The current business environment After several years of sustained expansion of economic activity, GDP growth is expected to contract by around 2.6% in 2009. In Q1 of 2009 the overall Industrial Production Index (IPI) decreased by 22.9% year- on-year. In the same period production in manufacturing decreased by 25.7%, in electricity and gas supply by 9.9%, and in mining and quarrying by 2.3%. The steepest falls in production were in the manufacture of: electrical equipment (44.9%), transport equipment (40.9%), basic metal and fabricated metal products (excluding machinery and equipment) (29.8%), chemicals and chemical products (29.3%), rubber and plastic products and other non-metallic mineral products (27.2%), machinery and equipment (24.1%), and textiles, apparel, leather and related products (23.7%). Retail has been hit by the weakening of currencies in neighbouring countries which have not yet adopted the euro, as this has made shopping abroad more attractive for Slovaks. While fixed investment was the strongest GDP component in 2008, the overall slowdown in economic activity, tightening credit conditions and deteriorating investor sentiment are likely to trigger a sizeable contraction in investment in 2009. This decline in investment is also linked to the higher cost of financing caused by the financial crisis. The slump in global trade is dragging down export-oriented companies: Slovakia is heavily affected by the economic deterioration of Germany and the Czech Republic as its main trading partners. The outlook for Slovakia After a drop in 2008, we expect insolvencies in Slovakia to increase in 2009 by as much as 20-25% to about 650. Sectors mainly affected will be transport, construction, textiles and steel traders as well as companies linked to the automotive industry. Companies that do not react quickly to the changing environment - by reducing fixed costs, re-directing export, reducing stocks and lowering or restructuring indebtedness - will face liquidity problems. But there are also some opportunities in the current environment. Slovakia is one of the few Eastern European countries which managed to introduce the euro. This makes business there safer and more predictable. Additionally, with its lower labour costs, Slovakia remains a competitive and attractive destination for Western European businesses looking for outsourcing opportunities. 12
  13. 13. Romania The current business environment The Romanian economy has experienced a hard landing following its high growth rates in previous years, which were achieved through an excessive accumulation of private sector debt denominated in foreign currency. As recently as last year the economy grew by 7.1%, but this year the IMF expects a negative growth rate of 4%. Unemployment is growing rapidly and years of lax fiscal policy have produced a fragile and unbalanced national economy. Poor public finances, a high current account defict and the global market turmoil have resulted in a weakening of the leu, which has already been devalued against the euro and the US-$. To address the sharp drop in capital inflows and the external and fiscal balances, Romania has agreed to a massive bailout loan worth € 20 billion from the IMF and the EU. A further currency devaluation is likely, and this poses an extra threat to the foreign currency indebted private corporate sector, and to importers, as well as making it harder for foreign companies to compete in the market. In February 2009 the trade deficit fell by 51.2% due to a steep fall in imports compared to exports. Despite the high growth rate in 2008, the economy was already then showing signs of weakening. The number of bankruptcies in 2008 reached 14,157: a 126% increase on 2007. It is expected that this number will double or even treble this year. The number of reported payment delays has grown rapidly: up by 500% year-on-year in the early months of 2009. In particular, companies who rely significantly on bank financing are finding it hard to pay their bills as bank lending has dried up. The outlook for Romania The short-term prospect for Romania is very grim, with further growth in unemployment and falling domestic demand both expected. Industrial production fell by 11.6% in the first two months of this year, and Renault has just announced its decision to move some production to France to save jobs on their home ground. The global economic crisis may result in similar decisions by other large foreign investors and this would add significantly to Romania’s economic woes. As mentioned, the number of insolvencies is already high and expected to increase further. Against this backdrop, we can only recommend the highest degree of caution in offering trade credits to Romanian companies in the coming months. The risk is particularly high in areas such as construction, and steel and metals, but there is also substantial risk in all other trade sectors, especially when dealing with companies with a high level of financial gearing. 13
  14. 14. Atradius Collections sees a marked increase in its caseload Atradius Collections, which handles both credit insured recoveries and uninsured debt collections, has seen debt placements escalate enormously in the last years. Compared to Q1 of 2008, the value of debt placed with Atradius Collections in Q1 of 2009 has increased by 109 index points. When these two – insured recoveries and uninsured collections – are taken separately (see the chart below) the rise in the latter is considerably greater – up 181 index points since Q1 of 2008. Debt Collections Inflow all countries 400 350 300 Index: 2007, Q1 = 100 250 Collections 200 Recovery Total 150 100 50 0 2007 2007 2007 2007 2008 2008 2008 2008 2009 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Year, quarter This difference to a large extent reflects the benefit to insured Atradius customers of the early warning system that is integral to our risk underwriting service: guiding customers away from risks that are most likely to result in loss. We expect debt collection submissions to rise even more in the coming months, for two main reasons. With credit management departments focusing intently on maintaining cash flow during the current recession, there is a trend to refer outstanding debts to external collection agencies at an earlier stage, and of course we continue to see a steep rise in insolvencies. 14
  15. 15. Atradius Copyright. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this report has been obtained from reliable sources, Atradius is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. All information in this document is provided ’as is’, with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness or of the results obtained from the use of this information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied. In no event will Atradius, its related partnerships or corporations, or the partners, agents or employees thereof be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information in this report or for any consequential, special or similar damages, even if advised of the possibility of such damages. 15