Moody's Says It May Downgrade McCormick By Three Notches After Food Deal

By Ciara Linnane Markets MarketWatch Pulse

Moody's Investors Service placed McCormick & Co. Inc.'s A2 rating on review for a possible three-notch downgrade Wednesday, after the company unveiled plans to acquire Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc.'s food division for $4.2 billion. If the deal closes as currently outlined, it will involve a significant amount of debt that will raise McCormick's leverage and send its debt/EBITDA ratio to about 5.4 times, said the rating agency. McCormick would actually use $3.7 billion of debt to fund the deal and it would take it several years to come back to its pre-deal credit profile. "McCormick is acquiring iconic, market leading brands with higher profitability than its existing business, but is tripling its debt to do so" said Dominick D'Ascoli, Vice President - Senior Analyst at Moody's. "This significant increase in financial leverage overshadows the benefits of the acquisition and results in a credit profile that is no longer consistent with its prior rating." McCormick shares slid 5.2% on the news. The S&P 500 was up 0.4%.

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