Standard & Poor’s cut Ford Motor Co.’s credit and unsecured debt ratings to junk territory, trimming the company’s rating to BB+ from BBB-, while Moody’s, another major credit-rating service, placed the credit rating of General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. under review as the U.S. reels from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
S&P isn’t just sitting still on Ford, saying the automaker’s new rating is now on “watch” as well, which suggests another cut could follow.
Moody’s is also actively reviewing the automaker’s most recent cut earlier this week, placing Ford on watch for a ratings downgrade after cutting to Ba2 from Ba1. Moody’s used similar language to explain their concerns about both Ford and General Motors.
“Ford remains vulnerable to shifts in market sentiment in these unprecedented operating conditions and the company is vulnerable to the outbreak continuing to spread,” Moody’s said, adding that the move reflects the “breadth and severity of the shock, and the broad deterioration in credit quality it has triggered.”
Last week, Ford suspended its dividend and drew $15.4 billion from its credit lines to ensure it had the cash needed to weather the tough times. The downgrade will immediately increase Ford’s day-to-day borrowing costs and put additional pressure on the its price of its common shares.
In GM’s case, Moody’s placed the automaker’s ratings under review for downgrade, including the Baa2 bank credit facility rating and the Baa3 senior unsecured debt rating.
“The rapid and widening spread of the coronavirus outbreak, deteriorating global economic outlook, falling oil prices, and asset price declines are creating a severe and extensive credit shock across many sectors, regions and markets. The combined credit effects of these developments are unprecedented,” Moody’s analysts noted.
“The automotive industry has been one of the sectors most significantly affected by the shock given its sensitivity to consumer demand and sentiment. GM remains vulnerable to shifts in market sentiment in these unprecedented operating conditions and the company is vulnerable to the outbreak continuing to spread,” they added.
Moody’s also said even without production “for a couple months,” there will be an overhang of inventory which could lead to considerable manufacturer incentives before the new model year shipments.
For now, Moody’s assumes a reasonable pace of recovery of demand as the third quarter develops, especially spurred by the new product introduction common during the late third quarter. But Moody’s assumes GM’s full-year unit shipments would drop by upwards of 15% to 18%.
Moody’s review will also assess GM’s ability to successfully pursue the long-term strategic initiatives already underway while contending with both, severely depressed demand and supply side shocks. GM will pursue these initiatives in what could be a lengthy period of stress in the automotive industry particularly affecting its core markets of North America and China.
The automaker drew $16 billion from its credit facilities this week to help it endure the drop in sales and continue some of its programs during the downturn. Moody’s Investors Service also that it has placed the “Ba1” Corporate Family Rating on FCA N.V and the “Ba2” ratings on the senior unsecured instruments issued or guaranteed by FCA N.V under review.