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Moody's cuts Ashland Inc.'s debt rating on buyout

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Moody's cuts Ashland Inc.'s debt rating on buyout
Moody's lowers Ashland Inc.'s debt rating, citing higher leverage on Hercules buyout
November 14, 2008: 02:54 PM EST

NEW YORK (Associated Press) - Moody's Investor Service lowered Ashland Inc.'s Corporate Family Rating further into junk status on Friday on concerns of weaker future performance and exposure to acquisition debt after the company bought paper chemicals manufacturer Hercules Inc.

Ashland spokesman Jim Vitak said that based on Ashland's share price Thursday, the deal was pegged at $3.1 billion, which includes Ashland assuming about $700 million in Hercules debt.

Moody's cut the chemical company's rating to Ba2 from Ba1 and said the outlook for the Kentucky-based company was negative.

The single-notch downgrade, a result of the company's higher leverage, was anticipated when Moody's rated Ashland's proposed acquisition debt in September 2008. The negative ratings outlook reflected Ashland's lower third-quarter earnings, expectations for a weak fourth quarter, 2009 and 2010 performance and the uncertainty over the global economic slowdown.

Shares of Ashland fell 31 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $17. 59. The 52-week share price ranges between $16.73 and $58.58.


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