Investing

10 Fresh Credit Rating Downgrades Could Send Corporate Borrowing Costs Sky-High

Jon C. Ogg

Despite a strong recovery from the March 23 lows, the U.S. stock market indexes and the economy as a whole are much worse off than just 45 days earlier. Skyrocketing trends in jobless claims and overall unemployment at the same time that stores are closed is wrecking the economy. There are few job openings, and much of the country has been ordered to work from home and stay at home. This is a very difficult time for many companies trying to navigate through an instant recession that caught most completely by surprise.

24/7 Wall St. already tracks many sell-side analyst ratings, but the downgrades from credit ratings agencies usually come with far higher implications for a company. Worse credit ratings tends to translate to higher borrowing costs, and that can have an impact on the interest and terms that companies will have when it comes to accessing short-term liquidity via credit lines and when they have to issue long-term debt.

Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch are the three major credit ratings agencies. Credit ratings can show the underlying credit metrics and financial health of a company far more than daily equity ratings changes from Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and so on. Credit ratings changes are currently being seen more on the downside due to the overwhelming negative effects of the broader COVID-19 economy.

The major agencies have issued multiple credit ratings downgrades and negative credit ratings views Monday afternoon through Tuesday morning.

BlackRock Capital Investment Corp. (NASDAQ: BKCC) was surging with the market on Tuesday, but a ratings action from Fitch late on Monday took its credit rating down deeper into junk territory as it went down to BB− from BB+ in that call. Its ratings were also left with a Rating Watch Negative status that could bring more downgrades ahead. BlackRock Capital Investment traded up over 20% at $2.30 on Tuesday, with a mere $158 million market cap. That is against a 52-week range of $1.47 to $6.30. The company was formerly known as BlackRock Kelso Capital, and it is taxed as a business development company.

Century Aluminum Co. (NASDAQ: CENX), which has lost close to two-thirds of its equity value from last year, saw S&P downgrade its credit rating deeper into junk territory to CCC+ and it remains on CreditWatch Negative in the outlook. With a mere $350 million market cap, Century Aluminum has total liabilities of $825 million, while it has posted net losses for the past two fiscal years. S&P warns of weak market conditions and refinancing risks.

EQM Midstream Partners L.P. (NYSE: EQM) was downgraded To BB− at S&P, and the Outlook Negative status implies that it could be downgraded deeper into junk territory. EQM Midstream is a master limited partnership that still has a $14.00 unit price, and its distribution (income plus capital return, a dividend equivalent yield of sorts) still screens out as 11%.

Magnolia Oil & Gas Corp. (NYSE: MGY), which still has a $1 billion market cap with just a $4.15 stock price, was maintained with a B+ rating at S&P. That is in junk bond territory, but S&P revised its stats to Outlook Negative as its credit metrics look meaningfully weaker than in prior forecasts.