COPENHAGEN Dec 20 Moody's downgraded A.P.
Moller-Maersk's credit rating on Tuesday, piling
pressure on the world's biggest container shipper as it juggles
a major restructuring with a multi-billion dollar acquisition of
a German rival.
Moody's said the downgrade from Baa1 to Baa2 with a negative
outlook "reflects Maersk's deteriorating credit profile".
The credit rating firm put the Danish shipping company under
review in September, when it announced a split-up to focus on
the shipping business and spin off its energy assets.
"(Maersk's) operations will be less diverse and potentially
less protected from a downturn in its end markets," Moody's said
in a statement.
Maersk's debt to operating profit ratio - a measure of a
company's ability to cover its debt - climbed to 2.5 over the
twelve months until the end of September, above Moody's
downgrade benchmark of 2.25, the rating agency said.
Global container shipping is suffering its worst downturn
caused by a faltering global economy and too many ships. The
slump has prompted a series of mergers and alliances aimed at
saving costs and pooling ships and routes.
Maersk said this month it had agreed to buy German rival
Hamburg Süd, the world's seventh-largest container shipping
line, at an undisclosed price.
The company is also trying to spin off its oil and gas
business, but merger talks with DONG Energy, which
has put its North Sea oil and gas assets up for sale, have
stalled, sources told Reuters last week.
Last month, Standard & Poor's lowered the company's credit
rating to BBB from BBB+ with a negative outlook.
The current ratings from both agencies are still considered
investment grade, and Maersk stressed at its capital markets day
last week it was committed to maintain that, even if it meant
selling assets or cutting dividends.
(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; editing by Susan Thomas)